On March 31, 2014, the New York Times published the following Letter to the Editor by Susan Cole and Harrison Polans, responding to an editorial about students being suspended and expelled from schools and highlighting Massachusetts legislation that could serve as a model for the country.
To the Editor:
Your editorial insightfully recognizes that the students who end up getting suspended and expelled are often those who need a safe and supportive school culture the most. It is counterintuitive and often discriminatory to exclude them from the very place that can help them grow socially, emotionally and academically.
Too many schools, however, struggle to create the kind of culture that can support all students. Coordinating and carrying out critical initiatives that range from anti-bullying programs to dropout prevention is challenging. Schools need a framework to help them align this array of efforts to create the foundation for learning that all students require.
H. 3528: An Act Relative to Safe and Supportive Schools, a bill in the Massachusetts Legislature, would provide such a framework for schools in Massachusetts and would be a model for schools across the country. Curbing suspensions and expulsions would be a great first step forward.
Helping schools build a positive school culture based on safety and support must be the next step on the legislative and education reform agenda.
Cambridge, Mass., March 27, 2014
Ms. Cole is director of the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative, a program of Massachusetts Advocates for Children and Harvard Law School, and Mr. Polans is a clinical law student in the program.