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Equity, Attendance Fuel Push To End Low-Level Suspensions Across Dallas ISD

Students are seen from behind sitting at desks in a high school classroom.

Dallas ISD says suspensions for minor offenses too often turn kids away from school, sometimes permanently, instead of punishing them and putting them back on the right track.

The Dallas school district plans to end all low-level suspensions for junior high and high school students next year, after doing away with them for early grades since 2017. The program may grow graduation rates.

Vince Reyes, Dallas’ assistant superintendent over school leadership, says ending suspensions for offenses like missing too many classes makes sense statistically — more students do better. He says it’s also more fair.

“One of the glaring social injustices that just screams at you is the over-representation of our African American students being suspended for these discretionary level offenses,” Reyes said.

He expects another benefit to ending low-level out-of-school and in-school suspensions, or ISS.

“On a regular basis,” Reyes said, “our students that get ISS, a lot of them, results then in being sent home for multiple days. Which then at some point seems to result in just them not even coming back to school. 'So what’s the point of coming to school if all I’m going to do is be sent to ISS?'"

Reyes says administrators and trustees seem to agree. While serious offenses- like bringing a weapon to school - will still lead to suspensions, by state law, minor ones will leave kids in school. All 52 comprehensive middle and high schools will get a coordinator to manage program on each campus.

Board members still need to approve funding the plan when they vote on next year’s budget in June.