By Clare Bratten

NASHVILLE, TN – A stricter discipline code will now be in effect for Metro Nashville Public Schools, after a vote on June 9th from the School Board. Despite concerns from community advocates for racial justice and concerns voiced by board members Dr. Sharon Gentry and Christiane Buggs, the measure proposed by MNPS Supervisor Dr. Adrienne Battle passed during the July 9th meeting with only Gentry and Buggs as “no” votes.

   Dr. Battle argued that the extension of suspension from five to ten days affords more flexibility to school administrators. In the past, if a student were suspended for up to five days, but still was acting out or having disciplinary issues, the only other option was expulsion. Dr. Battle argues that having up to 10 days of suspension can give a student and his or her teacher time to work out a restorative practice or plan that lets the student return to the classroom and avoid expulsion.

  “Almost 90 percent of our students have either one or none/zero infractions throughout the school year, so what we’re talking about is about 10 percent of our students who may have one or more infractions throughout the school year. What our school teams … do, is work closely with their students and their administrators regarding the plans for students upon their return. That is a school level determination.,” said Dr. Battle. She also argued that the “extended amount of days … is for the school team to come up with a plan of support.”

   Disciplinary infractions are ranked by code numbers and some infractions will have new code numbers. A 400-level code is for repeated violations or extreme disruption of learning environment, and the extreme disruption violation has been revised from a disruption affecting multiple classrooms to one classroom. Certain other offenses will be re-coded with new numbers, in some cases to a lower code infraction number – meaning a less severe disciplinary action.

   In response to board member questions about whether the new disciplinary code offers support to students who are placed out of school on suspension or who have violated codes, Dr. Battle said, “We have adapted some of our language to be more restorative so students can be heard – and equip them with the skills necessary to not repeat the offense.”

   Board member Freda Player Peters proposed a six-month pilot program for the code before committing to the change, but Dr. Battle argued that implementing such a pilot would take retraining and reprinting codes for only one school and impose too great a hardship. Dr. Battle did however agree with progress monitoring. “Once we make [disciplinary code] changes, principals are going to start baking this into everything they do, training, printing handbooks. I’m also concerned about the integrity of implementation – I think it would be difficult to implement from a pilot point of view. We are immediately going into planning this summer and teachers are going to be training their students, by doing that [a pilot] we could be undoing that [training on a system wide basis]. At the beginning of the year it would be very challenging. I do completely agree with progress monitoring,” said Dr. Battle.

   In another board action, the board unanimously approved recommended support for a resolution by Councilman Bob Mendes calling for a minimum salary of $15 per hour for staff positions in the schools. They also applauded Mayor John Cooper for funding laptops and internet connection for students during remote learning required during the pandemic. They opened the meeting with expressions of sorrow at the sudden death of MNPS Board Chair, Anna Shepherd on July 7th.