In their Report to the Legislature, the group had recommendations for three key entities — the Minnesota State Legislature, the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE), and for school districts and school sites.
Recommendations from the Student Discipline Working Group for the Legislature:
- Increase funding for clinical school-linked mental health services provided via school community partnerships.
- Increase funding to school districts to provide student support services that meet professional standards that include: school counselors, school social workers, school psychologists, school nurses, school chemical health counselors, behavior support specialists, and mental health professionals.
- Provide resources to school districts for the acquisition and training of positions described as cultural liaisons, equity coordinators, and diversity teachers, to support students, families, and staff.
- Fund a pilot project to reduce racial disproportionality in student discipline that will be coordinated by MDE with involvement by the impacted communities.
- Establish, communicate, and clarify clear due process (pre, during, and post) for all student dismissals. It is recommended to have due process information in multiple languages and create elementary and secondary versions.
- Reports of physical assault or history of violent behavior (as referenced in M.S. 121A.64) should not be required to be given to future teachers after one year of no additional reported incidents and should be amended to its previous language.
- In light of the Minnesota Supreme Court decision, the working group recommends a review of the meaning of the word “willful” due to the complex balance of students’ due process rights with the obligation of providing a safe school environment.
- Improve statewide reporting and data collection on agreements in lieu of expulsions or a withdrawal following a proposal to expel a student.
- MDE shall establish a mechanism for the collection of data regarding the use of school resource officers (SRO). The following data should be reported: number of SROs; existence of a contract governing the use of an SRO; number of buildings/students supported by an SRO; and the number of school-based officer-involved use-of-force incidents and the underlying basis for the student/SRO contact.
- Increase fiscal support to implement recommendations.
Rep. Drew Christensen shared his disappointment in the lack of creative solutions brought forth by the committee. Christensen also mentioned he was troubled by recommendation No. 6. He stated teachers have the professionalism to deal with information about a student’s history of violent behavior and the more information they have can help lead to better educational outcomes.
Group co-chair Marika Pfefferkorn — representing the Minnesota Education Equity Partnership (MnEEP) — shared her disappointment due to the difficulty in bringing forth more creative options due to the number of associations represented.
In Pfefferkorn’s opinion, had the group been more diverse, the conversations would most likely have gone outside the existing space to see what was possible rather than concentrating on compliance issues. Pfefferkorn went on to say that “there is opportunity to infuse innovative, creative approaches if we have an inclusive process.”
On the issue of informing teachers (recommendation No. 6), Pfefferkorn pointed out there was group consensus not to require reports of physical assault or history of violent behavior if there has been one year of no incidents.
Cathy Miller, MSBA’s Director of Legal and Policy Services, was a part of the Student Discipline Working Group along with 22 other members. The group met once a month for six months to prepare the report. The work group is no longer in existence. However, the chair of the committee anticipates many bills to be introduced in response to the report.