WHS Efforts to Improve Suspension Practices


Joe Kottke, Editor-in-Chief

  Mental Health Coordinator Amy Naleid and Behavior Specialist Rebecca Boggs have been collaborating on a districtwide project to help assist teachers in understanding mental health and the climate of Wayzata High School.
  According to Naleid, this project is part of an effort to improve suspension practices due to a disparity between the number of minorities and disabled students suspended, versus ‘mainstream’ kids.
  “The district of Wayzata reached agreements with the Minnesota Office of Human Rights (MDHR) alongside 30 other districts. Every district that was named had to make a plan to address the issue, but there was no punishment,” said Naleid.
  According to MDHR, situations were omitted that involved fighting or possession of weapons or drugs. Suspensions that are the result of a subjective judgement made by school officials were considered.
  “We want teachers to feel more capable of handling situations within the classroom so it doesn’t have to be escalated to suspension,” said Naleid.
  According to the MDHR, students of color comprise 31 percent of high school student populations in Minnesota, but receive 66 percent of all suspensions and expulsions; students with disabilities comprise 14 percent, yet receive 43 percent of all suspensions and expulsions. Students of color are also twice more likely to be suspended or expelled than white peers.
  Director of Communications and Community Engagement Amy Parnell said the agreements with the MDHR require development of strategies to reduce the number of overall suspensions for all students.
  The numbers counted for Wayzata included in-school suspensions in the solutions room, according to Naleid: “we still have discrepancies in elementary and middle school levels and we definitely have an achievement gap.”
  According to Naleid, many Minnesota districts have records of suspending students of color and students with emotional or neurological disabilities more frequently than white kids. “This isn’t equitable because kids who end up missing out on education could fall behind, which contributes to the achievement gap. We want to fix that,” said Naleid