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WDMCS Proposing Shift in Board Policies Around Student Discipline

West Des Moines Community Schools (WDMCS) is proposing changes to three board policies which address discipline. The changes are a result of ongoing equity work in the district and a philosophical change in how WDMCS wishes to respond to students who commit certain violations.

Board policies 502.07A and 502.07B address consequences for a student possessing, using, or being under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance. Board policy 503.01 spells out discipline based on inappropriate conduct not covered in policies 502.07A or B.  Each policy spells out the definition of the terms and lists consequences for first, second, and subsequent offenses. Under current wording, a student would be recommended for a 45-day out of school suspension and placed in an alternative setting. While this removes the student from school, it does not address restorative justice, which WDMCS believes is an important component for both the student and potential victims.

“This change allows us to support students academically, socially, and emotionally.  Helping our students make educated choices is part of being a productive citizen,” said Joe Libby, Ed.D., executive director of Teaching and Learning Services.

Youth Justice Initiative (YJI) Partnership

WDMCS is proposing a partnership with YJI that will incorporate an Approved Healthy Lifestyles program for students who face long-term suspension under these board policies. YJI’s program focuses on restorative justice, meaning ALL individuals have a stake in righting the harm in the community caused by the offense. Victim’s rights are acknowledged and addressed.

Instead of a 45-day suspension, the proposed policy changes would potentially lower the suspension to 10 days and required completion of the sixth-month Approved Lifestyles program. Students would remain in school to support their academic success while participating in YJI classes outside of school hours.

This program addresses the specific incident(s) that occurred and includes: a home visit, substance abuse assessment, family classes, community service, and restorative circles. Family involvement is critical, according to YJI administrators, because they are often the ones negatively impacted and in need of restorative justice.

YJI’s program asks three questions:

  1. Who has been harmed? (vs. What laws were broken?)
  2. How do we put things as right as possible? (vs. Who did it?)
  3. Who can help complete the obligations? (vs. What do they deserve?)

The shift in how WDMCS works with students who committed alcohol, substance abuse, and/or other violations will hopefully result in greater long-term success for these students. 2018 YJI statistics of students who completed their program resulted in improved GPAs, increased school attendance, and decreased discipline referrals.

Alternative Option

Under the existing process, suspended students work on their coursework at the WDMCS administrative offices under the supervision of Four Oaks instructors. Under the new plan, students electing not to participate in the YJI program would no longer have access to Four Oaks. Instead, they would continue their coursework online using Canvas to access assignments. Assessments would be arranged outside of school hours.

If you have questions about the proposed policy changes and/or the proposed YJI program, please complete the form below. The policies will be on the April 22, 2019 board agenda for approval.

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Board Policy Links with Proposed Changes

502.07A Alcohol Beverages – Possessing, Using, or Being Under the Influence Of

502.07B Prohibited Substances – Possessing, Using, or Being Under the Influence Of

503.01 Discipline