- Associated Press - Saturday, June 18, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Springfield Public Schools will begin determining punishments for fighting on more of a case-by-case basis under a new state law, according to Superintendent Jennifer Gill.

The change is being driven by reforms to the Illinois school discipline code, the (Springfield) State Journal-Register (https://bit.ly/238Lwx6 ) reported.

The new law ends zero-tolerance policies and requires schools to exhaust all other forms of discipline before expelling students or suspending them for more than three days. It’s meant to address the school-to-prison pipeline, a term critics use to describe school policies and institutional practices that funnel students out of the classroom and into the criminal justice system.

Gill said she supports the change and believes it will allow schools to better handle discipline. But she said it will be a major adjustment.

During the 2014-2015 school year, the Springfield school district issued 4,188 out-of-school suspensions, 1,835 of which were for more than three days, according to state education data.

Gill said many districts, including Springfield, operated under a zero-tolerance policy for fighting, meaning the punishment, often 10 days out of school, was cut and dry. But that will change with the upcoming school year as the new law goes into effect in September.

“We’re no longer going to treat every fight as equal,” Gill said.

Springfield School Board member Judy Johnson said she believes ending the zero-tolerance policy is a step in the right direction.

“The mission should always be to keep a child in school,” she said.

Gill said the Springfield district has been working over the past year to revamp all of its disciplinary policies.

Other local districts are getting help from the Sangamon and Menard Counties Regional Office of Education to get up to speed on the new law.


Information from: The State Journal-Register, https://www.sj-r.com

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