**FILE** Jalah Berrian, a fifth-grade student at William Beanes Elementary School in Suitland, jots down notes during a class discussion on climate change on Jan. 30. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)
**FILE** Jalah Berrian, a fifth-grade student at William Beanes Elementary School in Suitland, jots down notes during a class discussion on climate change on Jan. 30. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)

Two agencies created a guide that stresses schools must decrease suspensions, eliminate dress codes during the coronavirus pandemic and improve overall school climate for girls of color, specifically Blacks and Latinas.

According to the document released Thursday by The Education Trust and National Women’s Law Center, it emphasizes students should be involved in the process to implement policies and procedures in a student code of conduct.

“What schools have been doing isn’t working,” Kayla Patrick, senior policy analyst for The Education Trust, said in an interview. “Suspensions and expulsions don’t help students to learn more or do better. It doesn’t create a better outcome for students.”

The report, titled “…and they cared: How to Create Better, Safer Learning Environments for Girls of Color,” presents some statistics on school suspensions from the 2015-16 school year.

About 14% of Black girls accounted for all students suspended during that year, but represented only 8% of students registered in school.

During that time frame, Black girls were more four times likely to be arrested in school compared to white students.

Patrick said it is the most recent year of data available from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

The document highlights policy changes that worked in the Chicago and Oakland school districts and the state of Massachusetts.

In the Oakland Unified School District, student discipline data by race and gender can be accessed online. The district’s school board in California also approved this year to cancel a $2.5 million contract with the police department and will use that money for student support services and a restorative justice program.

During the 2019-20 school year, Chicago school officials improved its policies on sexual harassment, consent and retaliation and outline how students and teachers should report sexual misconduct. The policy changes also accompanied a 20-person office to address Title IX complaints and sexual allegations against students.

State officials in Massachusetts passed a law in 2012 that required educators to use restorative justice or positive behavioral interventions to handle student discipline. The law went into effect in 2014.

Out-of-school suspensions in that state and both school systems all decreased from double digits in 2012 and 2013 to single digits in 2018.

Patrick said the revised policies can eliminate cultural biases toward a girl’s speech, hairstyle and attire.

A few students from Oakland and Chicago are quoted in the report on how new procedures improved their school experience such as talking through conflicts.

“We both put our differences aside and put our guard down,” a Chicago high school student said. “We [were] actually talking and letting each other know how we felt at the moment, things was happening, and stuff. Yeah, it worked.”

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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