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Report Critical of Discipline Methods in Arkansas Schools

A new study of Arkansas schools points out that some forms of discipline, including expulsion or corporal punishment, rarely resolve a student's behavior issues. (SBPhoto/Twenty20)
A new study of Arkansas schools points out that some forms of discipline, including expulsion or corporal punishment, rarely resolve a student's behavior issues. (SBPhoto/Twenty20)
February 6, 2019

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Arkansas schools rely too heavily on expulsion and corporal punishment to discipline students, according to a new report.

The study said spanking or expelling kids as disciplinary actions makes learning harder for students who are struggling to achieve, and rarely resolves the underlying problem.

Report author Ginny Blankenship, education policy director for the nonprofit Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, said outdated discipline policies often do more harm than good, especially for disadvantaged students.

"We found examples of schools that are kicking kids out for very minor, nonviolent offenses at far greater rates for children of color and children with special needs than their peers in the classroom," she said.

The study confirmed that disruptive students often are the ones who struggle the most with schoolwork. Blankenship said research shows that suspensions and spankings, which account for two-thirds of all disciplinary actions, are ineffective at improving student behavior. The report offered alternatives, such as the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support system, in which students can take responsibility and make amends for their actions.

The study is a product of recent measures by the Arkansas General Assembly, which mandate reporting of all cases of school discipline. Blankenship says it recommends that the state provide more resources to the Arkansas Department of Education for training and school personnel.

"We've got to have more school counselors available in schools across the state," she said. "Right now, we're really under-funding school counselor positions. We should have a ratio of no more than one to 400 students, and we often have one to 700 in some cases."

She said the report suggested a ban on corporal punishment and recommended strict limits on suspensions, particularly for students in the lower grades.

"In Arkansas last year, there were over 15,000 instances of students being hit by administrators. A lot of parents don't realize that that this is still the case. And Arkansas is one of only 19 states that still allows this to happen."

The report also called for including student discipline rates and methods as a gauge of school climate in each school's federal report as part of the "Every Student Succeeds Act."

The report is online at aradvocates.org.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AR