How This Colorado School Stopped Removing Young Children

How This Colorado School Stopped Removing Young Children

It started with name-calling in music class. Then one second-grade boy shoved another.

In years past, the two might have been sent to the principal’s office at Stevens Elementary School in the the Denver suburb of Wheat Ridge, but not this year.

Instead, a call went out on the school’s walkie-talkie system — “SEL to music,” shorthand for social-emotional learning help needed in the music room. Desiree Mericle, the school’s dean of students, responded, escorting the boys to her office so they could talk out their conflict in the “restorative conference” corner. They were back in class, and friends again, about 15 minutes later.

The scene illustrates the school’s changing approach to discipline and reflects a broader effort in the 85,000-student Jeffco district to reduce out-of-school suspensions, especially for young students. Such discipline reform initiatives, already established or unfolding in some Colorado districts, could soon spread with a new law limiting suspensions of young children. The bill, already approved by the Colorado House and Senate, now heads to Gov. Jared Polis’s desk for a signature.

Jeffco’s push to examine discipline practices in the early elementary grades began shortly after Superintendent Jason Glass took the helm in July 2017. During the previous school year, district schools gave out 713 out-of-school suspensions to kindergarten through second-grade students, the equivalent of four every school day.

After a variety of changes, K-2 suspensions dropped to 413 last year — a decrease of more than 40 percent. The changes included training educators in restorative practices and adding staff to teach social-emotional skills such as self control and conflict resolution.


Original Article Written By Ann Schimke At Chalkbeat

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