Chris Schulz Published

Board Of Education Hears Updates On School Discipline 

Cursive writing on a chalkboardNPR

Educational leaders have expressed concern about a legislative change to school discipline that makes it easier to suspend a student. 

At the Wednesday meeting of the West Virginia Board of Education, Board President Paul Hardesty called a new requirement introduced by House Bill 2890 a “train wreck waiting to happen.”

The bill was written to give school teachers and administrators more leeway in school discipline, but the statute mandates that students be suspended if removed from a classroom three times in one month.

Hardesty said he’s concerned the law doesn’t define why a student would be removed, and that inexperienced teachers might remove students without cause.   

“We have special needs teachers that have specializations, that have training to know what to look for in this child with this type of deficiencies and behavioral patterns,” he said. “We take a long term sub and put them in a classroom that has no training. Now we give them the capacity to become arbitrary and capricious in their actions for a child to get a finite result of being kicked out of school. It may be well intended but you’re not hitting what you’re shooting at.”

School discipline data presented by the West Virginia Department of Education to the board earlier this year showed that the state’s students already lose a collective 178,000 instructional days to suspensions.

Drew McClanahan, director of leadership development for the state Department of Education, presented the board with an update to the Student Behavior Response Plan that resulted from the May study. He identified three areas that comprise the focus of the plan: training and support, accountability and policy.

“With the training support piece, I am excited to announce that we’ve been looking at data practices for school administrators,” McClanahan said. “Root cause analyses have been a part of supports and trainings that we provided throughout the summer. We’ve had some best practices related to classroom management, engagement and structural quality.”

McClanahan also reported his office is working with the Behavior Technical Assistance Center at Marshall University to expand training and support for educators. He also announced that the public, statewide dashboard announced at the May board meeting and meant to promote transparency and accountability around school discipline is ready.

“We believe that it will give the public an opportunity to see what types of discipline are being used at a school,” McClanahan said. “We hope that that gives the community an active opportunity to have meaningful conversations with school administrators on what’s being used at their school.”

The discipline dashboard can be found in the state’s ZoomWV information portal.