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Dallas ISD to allow community service, parenting classes instead of alternative school

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez
KUT News
The new Dallas ISD program will go into effect Oct. 1.

Dallas ISD will allow community service and parenting support classes as an option for student discipline to keep kids out of alternative schools, but pushed back when the program will be implemented.

Board members said Thursday that although they still plan to offer the new option, it won’t go into effect until October.

In the revised student code of conduct, a student could receive community service hours, peer tutoring or Saturday school instead of disciplinary alternative school “at the discretion of the principal.” This would only apply for lower-level offenses. Meanwhile, parents would be required to attend courses offering parental support.

Trustee Joyce Foreman expressed concern that not enough parents will participation the upcoming courses.

“We only had two parents to participate in trying to set that up,” she said. I would love to see us expand that to [other] parents and some community people.”

Trustee Maxie Johnson, who was previously unsure on the proposal, said the new parenting resource is “very powerful.”

“I think that's probably one of the best things that we've ever done… we never know what tragedy or trauma that our children are dealing with,” Johnson said.

Behavioral issues among K-12 students have been on the rise post-pandemic in the U.S. In 2022, 84 percent of public schools agreed or strongly agreed COVID-19 negatively impacted the behavioral development of students at their school, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

The amended code of conduct is part of the district’s effort to decrease the numbers of students suspended each school year.

Ben Mackey, vice president for the board, said the district has created other solutions for suspensions, such as reset centers, which provide access to mental health support, counseling and tutoring for students.

“Just simply suspending a kid doesn't solve any issue and it doesn't provide support,” Mackey said.

Other changes in the conduct included moving possession of e-cigarettes as a level III offense and adding hate speech as a level II offense.

Mackey said hate speech is particular to other offensive languages. It has become an important talking point for schools to address as they help students understand its negative impact.

He said he hopes these “experiments” of new school discipline will be more effective than previous practices.

“It hasn't helped students heal from whatever is going on and find better ways to be part of a school environment,” he said. “It is just simply removing a kid for a few days and then they came back. And we are here to support students to be successful in their lives, in their careers.

Penelope Rivera is KERA's summer 2024 Scripps Howard news intern. She graduated from the University of North Texas in May with a B.A. in Digital and Print Journalism.