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Feds Introduce New Guideline For Fairness In School Discipline

US Department of Education

Schools across the country will be taking a new look at their discipline policies after an announcement by the Obama administration on Wednesday. 

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the Supportive School Discipline Initiative...a sweeping set of new school discipline guidelines that the administration hopes will end many schools' zero-tolerance policies that he says has created a school to prison pipeline. The secretary also talked about studies where African-American students were found to be more harshly and frequently disciplined than white students. 

Malcolm Thomas, superintendent of schools in Escambia County says his thinks some of the new guidelines are good ideas.

Credit Escambia County School District
Escambia County School Superintendent Malcolm Thomas

He specifically mentioned ending zero tolerance policies, noting that Escambia County schools do not have such policies.  But he says the rest, while good intentioned, will be tough to implement in the real world.  Thomas, who said he only heard about the guidelines through news reports, points out that schools have very limited options when it comes to discipline.  But there are more options than in the past.  Thomas says that 5 years ago there was no in-school suspension option in Escambia County schools.  Since then, the number of students suspended out of school has dropped by more than half.  Thomas also says that good behavior is now being recognized and rewarded. 

You can watch Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's announcement of the new guidelines HERE.

Bob Barrett's complete interview with Escambia County School Superintendant Malcolm Thomas

Bob Barrett has been a radio broadcaster since the mid 1970s and has worked at stations from northern New York to south Florida and, oddly, has been able to make a living that way. He began work in public radio in 2001. Over the years he has produced nationally syndicated programs such as The Environment Show and The Health Show for Northeast Public Radio's National Productions.