CPS Public Comment on Discipline Regulations

CPS submitted public comment on proposed regulations to implement the Chapter 222 law on student discipline. The law attempts to ensure students facing exclusion from school have access to alternative educational programming so they can continue to make academic progress. It also aims to increase fairness and reduce the number and length of student exclusions. CPS and other groups weighed in to ensure regulations from the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education support these goals. Here are our comments:

Elizabeth Harris
Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education
75 Pleasant St.
Malden, MA 02148
Re: Chapter 222 Proposed Regulations
Dear Ms. Harris:

For 32 years, Citizens for Public Schools (CPS) has worked to promote, preserve and protect public schools and public education.  Key to this mission is ensuring equal access and educational opportunities for every child, and making sure that every student has a well-rounded public education that meets the needs of the whole child. In keeping with this purpose, we are submitting public comments on the Proposed Regulations for Chapter 222.

Our members, including educators, parents, students and others, have long been concerned about the detrimental effects of exclusion from school on a student’s education.  We are especially concerned when alternative education is not in keeping with the curriculum standards. We feel the regulations could be improved so that exclusion is limited.  This is what we suggest:

  • EXCLUSION: The final language of the new regulations must require that student exclusion be the last option for student discipline, preceded by more inclusive efforts.  Documentation of prior disciplinary measures of interventions should be a required part of the record.
  • “EMERGENCY” EXCLUSION:  There should be language addressing the rare circumstances when an emergency removal from school appears necessary.  In such a care, exclusion should be limited to a very short period, such as one day, and require the approval of the district superintendent. Such an “emergency” must be reported to DESE in a timely manner.
  • PARENT NOTIFICATION: It is crucial that parents or guardians be included in any disciplinary process that might lead to student exclusion. Adequate notice should be defined and efforts to contact parents be recorded. In general, this has not been done in the past nor is it included in the Chapter 222 regulations as now written. CPS strongly supports changes in the current language so that parents will be an essential part of the process prior to any decisions on suspension or expulsions. Parents must be part of the discussion of the causes and of options available to discipline and/or support their children. They can clarify possible root causes of the behavioral difficulties of their child, the family circumstances or the community situation.
  • REPORTING OF DATA ON EXCLUSIONS: The proposed regulations at 53.14 should strictly follow the mandates of Ch. 222 that the districts report data on exclusions in both disaggregated and aggregated form. This would allow for a thorough and meaningful reporting record that fully discloses practices at each school. And it is the only way meaningful analysis of discipline practices can be done.
  • SUPPORT FOR ALTERNATIVE EDUCATIONAL SERVICES:  CPS supports the provision in Section 53.13(3) that any such services would conform to the Massachusetts curricula frameworks. They should be provided by a certified educator, who has knowledge of the curriculum at the student’s grade level.  The quality of education provided is critical to prevent students from falling behind and dropping out of school.

CPS appreciates the opportunity to comment on these regulations and hopes you will find our concerns constructive and helpful.                                                         

Respectfully submitted,

Ann O’Halloran

Norma Shapiro
Vice President

Lisa Guisbond
Executive Director