The state shouldn't play the heavy when it comes to student discipline policies. That's a definite area for local schools and communities to navigate, but we'd also suggest they could do better. The research on effective discipline is evolving, particularly as it relates to out-of-school suspensions and expulsions.
Consider what a school superintendent recently told Education Week magazine: “Too many times, the solution is to remove the child from the (school) environment. That does not mean you've removed them from a learning environment. They're just, instead, learning what the streets have to teach them.”
Finding the balance between preparing for the worst-case scenario and the everyday challenges in need of better solutions won't be easy. Issues of funding, staffing, training and priorities aren't easily re-solved.
Still, we urge policymakers at all levels not to let themselves buy into the idea that one or two major policy changes will produce a significant fix. The everyday culture of a school is important but relies on relationships, implementation of and adherence to effective discipline strategies and support for behavioral and mental health issues, among other things.
Keeping students safe from outside harm and helping them feel that school is a place where they feel safe and loved aren't necessarily the same thing. Both are important.