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AISD Trustees: End Suspensions for PK-2nd Grade Students

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Dear Austin ISD Trustees:

Young children in Texas are being sent out of their classrooms in shockingly high numbers. During the 2013-14 school year, pre-K-5 students received 88,000+ out-of-school suspensions and 193,000+ in-school suspensions. In Austin ISD, elementary school students—some as young as 4—received 188 in-school suspensions and 655 out-of-school suspensions.

The disparities in AISD's suspension numbers are striking. While African-American students made up only 7% of the K-2 student population of AISD during 2013-2014, they accounted for 42% of out-of-school suspensions. In the same grades, 9% of students received special education services, but accounted for 31% of all out-of-school suspensions.

In addition to lost classroom learning time, children who are suspended, expelled, and sent to Disciplinary Alternative Education Programs are more likely than their peers to fall behind academically, experience future classroom exclusions, repeat grades, and have contact with the juvenile justice system.

Research also shows that the children who remain in a classroom when others are excluded do not benefit. In fact, schools with higher rates of suspensions and expulsions have lower rates of student achievement, more negative school climate ratings, and spend a disproportionately high amount of time on student discipline.

Most teachers want to keep their students in the classroom, but need support from their school administrators and the district to receive training in positive behavioral models and access to counselors and services that can help create a positive school climate.

The school boards in Houston and El Paso have already ended suspensions for PK-2nd grade students and Dallas ISD is discussing the issue as well. Austin ISD should join these districts and lead the movement in Texas to put the interests of young children first. Please do the right thing by crafting policy that eliminates classroom removals for young children, supports teacher training, and encourages a more fair school climate where all children can learn.

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