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Did you know that the federal government signed a law in 2015 to make state education systems more accountable as to how students are disciplined? The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) replaced the No Child Left Behind Act and provided states with greater flexibility in shaping their educational policies, while also creating a system of accountability. The focus on discipline was critical to advocacy efforts to prevent youth incarceration given that students who are suspended for at least 10 days are less likely to graduate and more likely to be arrested and incarcerated by their mid-20s. And in Louisiana Black students are more than twice as likely to be suspended as their white peers.

ESSA requires states to create accountability plans that include measures of school performance and student success. For example, the plans must address various factors, such as academic achievement, graduation rates, and English language proficiency. Additionally, ESSA encourages states to consider school climate and safety, including data on school discipline practices.  One of the key components of ESSA is the requirement for states to develop and implement plans that ensure educational equity and improve student outcomes in discipline. But in Louisiana, a recent decision by Governor Jeff Landry to remove school discipline from the state’s ESSA plan puts those efforts at risk. This decision is deeply troubling.

We know  that removing school discipline data from the ESSA plan undermines efforts to address disparities in disciplinary practices.  School discipline data can provide insights into the use of suspensions, expulsions, and other disciplinary actions, which disproportionately affect students of color and those with disabilities. On the other hand, including this data in state accountability plans promotes fair and equitable disciplinary practices and aims to ensure that all students have access to a safe and supportive learning environment. Without state-level accountability, schools may neglect the impact of harsh disciplinary measures on vulnerable student populations.

Advocates fought hard for transparency and accountability in discipline data to be included in the state’s ESSA plan. FFLIC and other partners believed it could help ensure that schools are creating safe and inclusive environments for all students and that disciplinary practices are not disproportionately affecting certain groups.

Governor Landry’s decision is a step backward in the broader context of educational reform, and the removal of school discipline data from Louisiana’s ESSA plan has significant implications for the state’s education system. Moving forward, it will be crucial for advocates to monitor the impact of this decision on school discipline trends and student outcomes. We must now be even more vigilant in monitoring school practices and ensuring that all students in Louisiana receive a quality education in a supportive and equitable environment.