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Medical Lake school district reviews discipline policy


Last updated 7/15/2021 at 10:04am

MEDICAL LAKE — As the 2021-22 school year approaches, the school board anticipates a return to in-person learning. One of the changes coming with the new year is the revised school district discipline policy.

The policy is renewing its focus on prevention instead of intervention. This means incorporating more people, steps, support before removing a student from the classroom. It also emphasizes culturally responsive discipline that accounts for students’ backgrounds and reduces implicit bias. Yet another revision concerns even clearer language that establishes behavioral expectations for students.

In 2018, the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) made a statewide mandate that refocused Washington schools from the zero-tolerance discipline policies they had previously followed. Those policies were found to do little to reduce suspensions and expulsions. The main goal for the policy and its subsequent revisions is to maximize a student’s instructional time and keep them in the classroom.

“It minimizes out-of-school suspensions and out-of-class suspensions,” said Superintendent Tim Ames at the June 22 school board meeting. “There have to be different tiers of things that need to be done. So if the teacher says [the student] needs to be removed from the classroom, there have to be some other intentions prior to saying, ‘you’re out of the class.’”

According to the OSPI, discipline data has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and online learning. As an overall trend, however, the school district’s out-of-school exclusionary discipline actions have been decreasing over the years. Those actions could include both short-term and long-term suspensions as well as expulsions.

According to their data, the school district had a 3.5% discipline rate in the 2014-2015 school year. That has decreased steadily over the years, coming out at 1.3% for the 2019-20 school year. The statewide discipline rate for the same year is 2.4%.

The final approval for the policy will take place at the July 27 school board meeting. Training for administrators will take place in August.

Riley Kankelberg can be reached at


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