Getting Answers: New school suspension laws

Getting Answers: New school suspension laws
Published: Nov. 17, 2022 at 7:31 PM EST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) -New school suspension laws for Massachusetts’ public schools went into effect last week.

The new rules went into effect on November 8. We checked in with leaders at local school districts to find out how these changes are impacting their school systems.

Public schools in the Bay State, now have new requirements to follow when it comes to student suspensions and expulsions. Included in the updated law now in place.

“...When deciding the consequences for the student, shall consider ways to re-engage the student in the learning process; and shall not suspend or expel a student until alternative remedies have been employed.”

Western Mass News is getting answers from local school districts on how this change is impacting their schools.

“We agree it’s not a bad thing keeping kids in school and making sure that we’re looking at alternative strategies when we’re imposing progressive discipline,” said Dr. Vito Perrone, interim superintendent of West Springfield public schools.

According to the state law, some of those alternative remedies to school suspensions include mediation, conflict resolution, restorative justice and collaborative problem solving.

Dr. Perrone explained what these alternative remedies look like in the classroom.

“Let’s sit them down and do a mediation little conflict mediation with a counselor and give them an opportunity to be heard and give them an opportunity to listen and that’s really key in that type of situation. De-escalate the emotions of the situation and really be objective with how we can solve a problem with our words instead of with actions,” he said.

Azell Cavaan with Springfield Public Schools told us the district had already started implemented these types of changes years ago to help with their suspension rate.

“In 2011 for that school year we had over 3,000 out of school suspensions. Close to 3,500 suspensions. And last year we had about 1,000 suspensions,” she said.

She adds that number dropped to 700 suspensions just before the pandemic, but they saw an uptick as students returned to in-person learning.

“There were a number of behavioral issues that had to be mitigated. Students had to be out of the classroom for so long there had been such a lack of structure with remote learning that it took some time to get students back on track to being in the school building.”

Cavaan also said they have ramped up communication efforts about behavioral issues between the school district and parents.