Education News

How Houston Schools Have Prepared for New Suspension Ban

The new ban is meant to reduce harsh discipline, which disproportionately impacts students of color, and keep kids in class.

 

Michael Webb leads a newly expanded team for social and emotional learning at HISD.
Michael Webb leads a newly expanded team for social and emotional learning at HISD.

This year, Houston schools have a new approach to discipline: They won’t suspend young children from kindergarten to second grade for minor misbehavior.

The new ban is meant to reduce harsh discipline, which disproportionately impacts students of color, and keep kids in class.

To prepare for that change in discipline, the Houston Independent School District has a new team devoted to what’s called social and emotional learning. 

“I would say we’re better prepared than last year, but we’re not where we want to be,” said Michael Webb, who leads that team.

Webb discussed the team’s approach and goals in a nearly empty school building in Northeast Houston that he hopes stays empty all year. Elementary students are sent here for extreme misbehavior like getting into a severe fight or bringing a BB gun to campus.

Webb said that the trick to change that – and also minor acting out that used to lead to suspensions in early grades – is relationships.

“And understanding that behavior is learned and therefore behavior is taught. In every interaction we have with the student, we’re teaching behavior. We’re modeling behavior and whether we know it or not, we are either reinforcing a positive behavior or a negative behavior with every intervention,” he explained.

Webb still needs to hire more people to fully staff a team of behavior coaches and psychologists. But they’ve already started showing teachers how to reinforce positive behavior in the classroom.

So far, they’ve trained almost 70 schools. The goal – 100 campuses in total by the end of the year.

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Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Laura has won awards for...

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