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Eastern Washinton Legislative Conference Workshop

Educators discuss exclusion discipline and collaborate with schools

Pavel Shlossberg, Jim Mohr, Jeanne Baynes and Doreen Keller serve on the NAACP Spokane Education Committee.

Educators from area universities who are on the Education Committee of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) Spokane discussed how school discipline by exclusion contributes to more children of color and more poor children following “the school to prison pipeline.”

They are working with Spokane Public Schools to identify what is happening, to make changes and to train teachers and administrators.

“Children are often disciplined like criminals,” said Jeanne Baynes, who taught in Spokane Public Schools before retiring and now teaches Africana studies at Eastern Washington University.  People of color make up about 30 percent of U.S. population and account for 60 percent of those imprisoned.

She said it costs $62,000 a year on average in California to support one inmate in prison and that amount would support two students to go to college.  The average cost for Washington inmates statewide is $76.85/day, which is more than $28,000/year. It’s $98.74/day or more than $36,000/year at Washington State penitentiary, she reported.

“There is zero tolerance for students breaking rules.  Many are punished harshly and unfairly,” she said. “Suspension and expulsion leads to a higher dropout rate.”

Policies and practices that push children out of classrooms and into the juvenile justice system include school-based arrests by a resource officer or referral to law enforcement, and indirectly, exclusionary school discipline, Jeanne said.

The NAACP is concerned about police presence in schools, teachers who yell at students and students who bring emotional and mental baggage from home to school. 

“Children of color and children with disabilities are most affected,” Jeanne said.

Doreen Keller, assistant professor and secondary coordinator in Whitworth University’s master in teaching program, said data showed a drop in exclusionary consequences from 1,676 in 2014-15 to 969 in 2016-17, and a slight increase in 2017-18.

The main types of incidents leading to exclusion are verbal or physical aggression, defiance of a resource officer, violence, fighting or a threat.

In 2016, the state legislature passed a bill calling for penalties for districts using exclusionary practices—taking students out of the classroom and educational experience.

Doreen showed statistics by race on the disproportional rate of exclusion used as discipline for racial/ethnic groups compared to the percentage of students of those races and ethnicities: 6 percent of African American students are excluded, but they are 3 percent of students; no Asians who are 3 percent of students; 55 percent of white students who are 68 percent of students; 13 percent of Hispanics who are 10 percent; 21 percent of multiracial students who are 13 percent; 3 percent of Native Americans who are 1 percent, 1 percent of Pacific Islanders who are 2 percent, and 47 of special education students who are 20 percent of students.

“Students struggling with financial insecurity are 86 percent of those expelled,” Doreen added.

She said Spokane Public Schools’ 8.5 percent rate of exclusionary discipline in 2015 was greater than the three percent state average, which means there was a need to train teachers and administrators on ways to support students.

Doreen serves on the School Superintendent’s Working Group, which is examining disparities and how the district can better support students who experience disproportionate discipline.  She said a training initiative is now underway.

Jim Mohr, who taught elementary, middle and high school, and special education before entering higher education, is vice chancellor for student affairs at Washington State University Health Science in Spokane.  He chairs the NAACP Education Committee.

“Identity development is one of the biggest projects for adolescents,” he said.  “Identity forms how youth interact with people, trying new things and new behaviors to see how they are rewarded or punished.”

He told of an African American boy who wanted to go to college and thought he had to go to prison first. 

“How did that impact his interactions at school? Does he accept, reject or negotiate that identity? If a teacher thinks black boys are discipline problems, more discipline happens,” Jim said.

If messages from media, teachers and parents about race influence identity, he asks how families, friends, school can create positive identities.

“Low-income youth can enter enrichment activities, like MESA (Math, English, Science and Technology) or Upward Bound, to help them know they can go to college,” he said. “It is possible to counter narratives by telling students they can be successful students.”

Pavel Shlossberg, assistant professor in communication and leadership studies, and co-developer of the global leadership program at Gonzaga University, said the “deficit model” contributes to racist, classist attitudes that associate communities of color with problems.

“Parent involvement and support of learning at home make a difference,” he said, noting that institutional racism and low-income affect parents’ interaction with teachers.

Pavel noted that most local students studying to be teachers are white and middle-class. They may lack cultural competence to interact with minority and lower-income parents. So there are efforts to train teachers to increase that competence.

“Parents are likely to participate if they feel empowered by interactions with teachers, administration and staff,” Pavel said. “Teachers may be less likely to engage minority parents in collaborative efforts to support their students. Outreach to minority parents is often for behavioral problems rather than positive issues.”

Parents of minority and low-income students may also have barriers to meeting with teachers because of work schedules, losing income when they take time off or lacking transportation, said Pavel.

He suggests that more schools offer intercultural competence training to identify stereotypes and biases, increase the flexibility in scheduling meetings, and plan cultural events that promote inclusion and community building.

He believes change will also happen through training teachers, administrators and staff on restorative justice and positive behavior interventions.

Recruiting and retaining teachers of color are already part of the Spokane Public Schools’ Culturally Responsive Teaching Strategies, Pavel added.

For information, call 209-2425 or visit

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