Restoring Community

via Flickr Creative Commons User: It's Our City[Today Kristen Graham in the Philadelphia Inquirer writes that the Student Reform Commission approved major revisions to the student conduct code: "The new policy is the most extensive set of revisions to the student rules in years." The policy "gives principals more latitude in meting out discipline and means that students cannot be suspended for infractions such as using profane language or failing to follow a dress code."

Incoming Superintendent William J. Hite, Jr. is quoted in the article as saying, "We can't suspend our way to higher student achievement. We can't arrest or suspend our way to safer schools."

Graham writes about the new code:

The focus now is on in-school intervention.

"Though there can be no excuse for behavior that harms or disrupts, there may be reasons that caring adults in school need to understand. We educate the whole child," the code declares. It lists a range of in-school interventions that should be employed, from "get a student's attention by calling his/her name in a calm voice" and "address the student in private" to drawing up behavioral contracts.

The new policy is announced less than a month after student and other activists argued that the original changes proposed for the conduct code did not go far enough. Those students must feel empowered by their influence on the revisions, though not everyone is satisfied. Graham writes:

The code of changes won mostly high praise from advocates, who helped shape it.

"We think the district is moving in the right direction," said Yvonne Knight, a district student and a member of Youth United for Change.

Others said the code focused too much on the punitive and not enough on restorative justice, positive behavioral support, and peer mediation.

[School Reform Commissioner Lorene] Cary said that although they are not spelled out in the code of conduct, the district was focused on such strategies and will spend money to implement them in some city schools.

The complete article, "New code of conduct in Philadelphia schools gives principals more leeway," can be found here.

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