South Bend Schools face controversial discipline policies

South Bend Schools face controversial discipline policies. // WSBT 22 photo.

South Bend Schools are considering two controversial policies.

The two policies are based on Indiana State Law.

One would require schools to report students with two or more suspensions to the BMV.

The other would make all school staff responsible for reporting gang activity.

Both parents and the school board are worried these policies take discipline a step too far.

The Nu Black Power Movement of South Bend held a teach-in Wednesday to inform the community on the issue.

Both policies were given to the school district by consultants who say the new rules help the district comply with state law.

Policy 5840 would require school officials to report activity that looks like a criminal organization.

School Board president Stan Wruble says this policy is currently unworkable.

"Our educators, our principals, our janitors, our teachers, our secretaries, our tutors are not trained to look for signs of gang activity," says Wruble.

Wruble is also concerned that staff could be punished for making a false report under the policy.

He says the state provides no funding or guidance on how to train staff.

The other policy causing controversy is 5610.

Students with two suspensions would be reported to the BMV, possibly losing driving privileges until they are an adult.

Many say this punishment goes too far.

"I don't see the value in punishing someone for an act or an action at 13 that will carry over to 16, 17, 18-years-old," says parent Charles Davis.

Another concern is that both policies would disproportionately affect minority students.

Opponents say harsher discipline, specifically suspension, will only make it harder for students to graduate, and it could get them into more trouble.

Nu Black Power Movement founder Blu Casey says when he was suspended from school, he had too much idle time.

"I'm bored sitting at the house right now because I'm not in school," says Casey. "All my friends are in school, and I have nothing to do. So I'm hanging out with the older homies who are probably doing this and that because I'm not in school."

The School Board President says that they are now digesting the feedback from the public.

He says the next step is to try and mesh these concerns with state law.

For now, the two policies have been pulled for further review.

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