School Choice

Standing Up for Responsible Discipline in Public Charter Schools

This week, the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools (NCSECS) released a joint statement from a coalition of 20 education membership and advocacy and organizations urging the charter school sector to commit to strong, fair and equitable student discipline practices for all students, including those with disabilities. By nearly all-measurable metrics (e.g., performance, persistence, and post-secondary outcomes), we as a society are collectively underserving students with disabilities. As one component of a response, we developed the joint statement in response to ongoing concerns regarding the extent to which students with disabilities are disproportionately disciplined in both traditional and public charter schools. Disproportionate discipline of students of color and students with disabilities is tremendously costly in terms of the short and long term impact on student outcomes. As a society, we simply cannot afford to continue to condone disciplinary practices that harm kids. In the statement, 20 charter school and special education thought leaders note the potential of charter schools, acknowledge the documented challenges some charters have encountered related to discipline and urge the sector to take specific steps to create positive learning environments that can reduce the need for disciplinary action. We created the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools in 2013 to ensure students with disabilities have ready access to charter schools equipped to offer them quality programs. In developing our strategic plan, one of our early goals was to bring advocates from the special education community together with peers in the charter sector to foster relationships and work collectively to ensure access and quality. The most tangible manifestation of this work is our Equity Coalition comprised of representatives from a diverse group of leading organizations from the special education and charter school sectors. NCSECS is extremely proud to lead this historic effort to ensure the rights and potential of students with disabilities are realized in charter schools. While just one step in our journey, we see the joint statement as an important public declaration by 20 organizations with distinct missions proudly committing to guard the rights of students with disabilities but also, to roll up their sleeves and work together to find solutions to challenges associated with offering high quality special education programs in autonomous charter schools. The Equity Coalition’s work has just begun and we are committed to finding both common ground and solutions so that all students can succeed in quality charter schools.
Paul O’Neill is the co-founder and senior Fellow at the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools. He is an education attorney, professor and author with extensive experience in guiding education organizations through challenges and growth. He advises schools, authorizers, networks, non-profits, government agencies and philanthropies on the rules and complexities that apply to ...

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