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School Board Approves New JCPS Code of Conduct With Focus on Reducing Suspensions

The Jefferson County Board of Education approved revisions to the districtwide Student Code of Conduct  on Tuesday night.  The changes focus on reducing suspension rates while ensuring student safety, said Jackie Wisman, the district’s director of Safe and Drug Free Schools. The board approved the revisions on a 5-2 vote.  Board members Debbie Wesslund and Linda Duncan voted against the changes.Wesslund said the changes were made “too fast” and the focus needs to be on faculty and staff training, plus observation.“I think we could do a better one if we had waited this year to see how our new interventions are affecting outcomes and how teachers and principals are responding to the need to reduce disparities,” she said. “I just think there is a lot more to learn.”The process of developing the revisions has been a much-debated topic since early in the year.The changes to the Code of Conduct primarily focus on reducing the amount of time a student can be suspended for certain offenses, and adopting practices that work to prevent misbehavior, such as Restorative Practices and Positive Behavior Intervention Supports strategies.In a statement, Citizens of Louisville Organized and United Together, or CLOUT, said “the Jefferson County Board of Education approved a Code of Conduct on Monday night which research confirms will continue to create racial disproportionality in student discipline.”CLOUT members have pushed for wider changes to the JCPS discipline policy.Superintendent Donna Hargens said the revisions to the Code of Conduct are expected to be applied evenly to every student in every school, with the goal of addressing the disproportionate number of suspensions among races.She said administrators and teachers will begin receiving training on the revisions before the next school year to ensure a consistent approach to addressing discipline.“What we found was that there was a wide range of what people interpreted as disruptive behavior and different kids were getting different consequences,” she said.  “A student shouldn’t be at the whim of a subjective interpretation of an offense. It should be very clear.”

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.

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