School Mental Health Project

And Yet Another Discrete Initiative!

On 7/21/11, Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the launch of the Supportive School Discipline Initiative. This collaborative project between the Departments of Justice and Education is described as addressing the "school -to -prison pipeline" with a special focus on the disciplinary policies and practices that can push students out of school and into the justice system. The initiative's stated aims are to support good discipline practices and to foster safe and productive learning environments in every classroom. The goals are to: "build consensus for action among federal, state and local education and justice stakeholders; collaborate on research and data collection that may be needed to inform this work, such as evaluations of alternative disciplinary policies and interventions; develop guidance to ensure that school discipline policies and practices comply with the nation's civil rights laws and to promote positive disciplinary options to both keep kids in school and improve the climate for learning; and promote awareness and knowledge about evidence -based and promising policies and practices among state judicial and education leadership."

Clearly, the initiative's intent to counter negative discipline practices and foster safe and productive classrooms is positive. Hopefully, it could help reduce the number of "push-outs."

Issues arise, however, about yet another discrete initiative

Where does the Supportive School Discipline Initiative fit with Race to the Top, the Investing in Innovation (i3) Program, Promise Neighborhoods, the federal bullying initiative, the Safe and Supportive Schools grant program, etc.? Issues also arise about how well such federal interagency initiatives (e.g., the Safe Schools/Healthy Students grant program) lead to fundamental systemic school improvement changes.

And based on our policy and practice analyses, we ask: Will this initiative help or hinder development of a unified and comprehensive system for addressing barriers to learning and teaching and re-engaging disconnected students?*

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*With respect to these matters, see our Center policy and practice reports entitled:

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