Thursday 7 December 2023

Portland Teachers Will Take Gender Identity, Race Into Account Before Disciplining

 Portland public school teachers will now take gender identity and race into account before disciplining students, according to an agreement between the school district and its teachers union.

The requirement appears in a collective bargaining agreement between Portland Public Schools and its unionized teachers, which ended a nearly month-long strike late last month. The agreement with the Portland Association of Teachers was ratified on Tuesday.

When a student engages in “continuous disruptive behavior,” school officials must develop a “support plan” for the student that “must take into consideration the impact of issues related to the student’s trauma, race, gender identity/presentation, sexual orientation … and restorative justice as appropriate for the student,” the agreement states, according to the Washington Free Beacon.

The new disciplinary policy also prohibits suspending a student who threatens or harms other people. Those students may now only be removed from their classroom and sent to a “self-regulation space” within the school.

Previously Portland schools could suspend middle and high school for at least five days for extreme cases of students causing physical harm or threatening violence. Now through the union agreement, the district has expanded its rapid response teams, which are supposed to intervene early in these situations.

The agreement replaces the term “unacceptable” student behavior with “continuous disruptive” behavior, and refers to “support plans” rather than “behavior correction plans.”

More than 40,000 Portland students returned to the classroom last week for the first time since Halloween when the teacher strike ended.

Due to the strike, students’ winter break will be cut in half to make up for the class time they lost this month. Parents have complained this decision affects their holiday plans.

Portland’s teachers will get a pay raise of about 14% over three years thanks to their new contract with the district.

Student discipline has been a growing concern in Portland’s public schools.

Portland teachers have said they are seeing “more students in crisis” with mental health issues, which can lead to fights.


In response, the Portland school district has been working to beef up its “restorative justice” practices over the last two years.

“So that we’re really shifting from this punitive way of how we respond, to either discipline, or how we respond to our students who do get suspended or expelled and need to reenter,” Char Hutson, the program manager for restorative justice said in 2021.

However, after the pandemic, the district saw a spike in requests for the district’s restorative justice services, seeing up to 60 requests in the fall, 2021 semester compared to just 40 requests for the entire previous school year, Hutson said at the time.

Failing discipline policies were one of the concerns among conservative parents in other parts of the country who ran for school board after the pandemic.

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