Most out-of-school suspensions in DISD given to Black students

The Dallas ISD Board of Trustees heard suggestions April 8 about implementing new centers and personnel to replace out-of-school suspensions.

In DISD, nearly all out-of-school suspensions were given to students of color. In the 2019-20 school year, 51.66% of out-of-school suspensions were given to African American students, and 43.97% were given to Hispanic students.

The district as a whole is almost 70% Hispanic and 24% Black. White students make up less than 6%.

The Texas Education Agency found that the main reason for this disproportionate student experience in discipline is due to “biased and discriminatory suspension practices by staff.” Another reason was an inconsistent use of interventions to handle behavioral infractions.

The district is proposing that every comprehensive middle and high school in the district should have a place where students who engage in problematic behaviors such as using inappropriate language or getting in fights, would go. Those places, which could be called reset centers, redirection centers, restart centers or positive interaction centers, would be staffed with a highly trained staff members who can engage with students and get to the root causes of problematic behaviors.

Mental health clinicians and counselors would also help in the centers.

Students would continue going to the centers until their behavior changes. If students don’t change their behavior, though, the district does not want them going back into classrooms and disrupting their classes further, says Superintendent Michael Hinojosa.

“This is a different mindset,” says Orlando Riddick, the acting chief of school leadership. “But we need to work to resolve the underlying issues students face instead of watching them go through an ongoing cycle of behavior issues again and again.“

These centers would not be for students who are causing serious harm or putting others in danger, such as by selling drugs or bringing firearms to school. They will only be used in “discretionary” circumstances, when the district can decide how to discipline students.

Funding is needed for training the school staff and redesigning the look of the centers, such as by purchasing new furniture.

The district is working to gain feedback from teachers, parents and students, in a “design thinking” process.

Go here to see the presenters’ slide show.

Renee Umsted

Renee is an associate editor at the Advocate, covering Dallas ISD and zoning and development.

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