Changes are coming to the discipline policy at Gwinnett County Schools, after school board members learned how more Gwinnett students are assigned to an alternative school than the other five major metro districts combined.
In Gwinnett, 1,393 students were assigned to alternative schools in 2019, compared to 1,277 combined students in the Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton, Clayton, and Atlanta school districts, according to the most recent state data.
“It’s so preposterous, and it doesn’t seem very believable,” Gwinnett school board member Karen Watkins said during a work session last Thursday when the data was presented.
During the regular school board meeting, the board passed changes that included getting rid of attendance-related tribunals, allowing adults to advocate for the children, and focusing on other interventions before discipline.
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Black and Hispanic students make up 81% of all Gwinnett students suspended and 85% of students in alternative school, according to district data.
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“The system has disproportionately impacted Black, brown and students with disabilities for a lot of years,” said Marlyn Tillman with Gwinnett SToPP, who has been pushing for discipline changes for years.
Tribunals for violent and criminal behavior will still happen.
However, the tribunal room will look less like a courtroom under the new changes.
“Ending the school-to-prison pipeline is important for our community,” said Board Chair Dr. Tarece Johnson, “because everyone benefits when we appropriately address discipline.”
However, some have expressed fears that making changes to discipline could have unintended consequences.
Kevin Luthi says he pulled his daughter from Gwinnett County Schools because of bullying concerns. He says that some students may take advantage of the changes.
“I think it’s just going to get worse,” he said, “because the kids who need to get in trouble and need to be disciplined aren’t going to get disciplined.”
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