Addressing disproportionate discipline in San Bernardino City Unified


This content was provided by Panorama Education, an ACSA Partner4Purpose

Districts today are swimming in data. From assessment scores, to attendance figures, to survey results, districts are tracking multiple sources of data to understand and support the needs of students.

This especially holds true for San Bernardino City Unified School District (SBCUSD), the eighth largest district in California. At SBCUSD, collecting student data and stakeholder feedback is essential to creating a positive climate for every student, at every school.

With all of this information, however, the SBCUSD Student Wellness and Support Services department wanted to better equip school teams to use data to create equitable experiences for students. Discipline disproportionality among African American students is a pressing challenge across the district—and educators needed a systematic, data-driven way to address the issue. 

Rose Ann Bomentre, Director of Student Wellness and Support Services at SBCUSD, said:

“We had a lot of data, but it was all over the place and we didn’t have a uniform process for building the capacity of our staff to use it. We wanted to create a district-wide protocol so that every school would have a baseline for building a positive school climate.”

San Bernardino’s 4-step process for addressing discipline disproportionality

Using a simple “data protocol” process, school teams at SBCUSD are now mobilizing around data to address discipline disproportionality and other district-wide challenges. Below, learn about the four-step process that SBCUSD school teams are using to advance their work around equity.

Step 1: Research and review data

To get started addressing disproportionality in discipline, SBCUSD school teams collected relevant data to help them understand the status of the issue.

Beyond collecting “hard” data on suspensions and referrals, each school also used Panorama Education to conduct feedback surveys to learn about students’ perceptions of school climate, sense of belonging, safety, and fairness of rules.

District and school teams then broke down the results by student race to understand why there was a higher rate of behavioral issues for African American students.

With reports from Panorama Education, SBCUSD administrators observed that African American students in grades 3-5 scored 7 percentage points below average for Fairness of Rules and 10 points below average for Sense of Belonging. The data gave administrators insight into how students of color view their school environments.

Step 2: Recall practices

Whether your district or school is investigating trends in behavior, attendance, or academic performance, the next step is to think about the practices you implemented that may have led to existing outcomes in the area.

For example, SBCUSD school teams recalled how they had been handling student behavior in the classroom. Up until that point, disciplinary practices had focused on making sure that students understood rules and policies.

The newly collected data, however, led district and school leaders to consider a different approach: reducing disciplinary issues by created a more inclusive, relationships-driven climate for learning.

Colleen Williams, Coordinator of Student Wellness and Support Services at SBCUSD, said:

“In our past work looking at suspensions and office referrals, we focused on ensuring that students knew the rules and how to behave. Now, we’re looking at what’s missing in our environments that we need to build into our classrooms and schools.”

Step 3: Reflect and make connections

Supported by the Student Wellness and Support Services department, school teams dug deeper into behavior, climate, and social-emotional learning (SEL) data to connect the dots between practices and outcomes related to discipline.

To analyze the “why” behind disproportionality in discipline, district and school leaders combined behavior data with data on how specific student groups feel about their schools. School teams noticed a correlation between higher rates of behavioral issues and lower scores for school climate and SEL skills among African American students.

Based on this trend, district and school leaders are now thinking about how to make each school environment more welcoming and supportive for student groups with disciplinary issues.

Step 4: Plan and take action

The last—and most important—step in SBCUSD’s process is action planning. Administrators and educators come together to action plan during professional development days, as well as during workshops led by Panorama. The following resource have helped to facilitate these sessions:

  • Data Inquiry Template: A resource for schools to surface “encouraging” and “concerning” data—and identify new practices or interventions
  • Student Support Plan: A resource that counselors use to reflect on individual students’ SEL data and create support plans

Today, SBCUSD is working to close the discipline “gap” by building cultural proficiency in staff—and by helping different student groups develop strong connections with staff and peers. In the coming years, school teams will continue to gather and use data to ensure that every student realizes an equitable experience at school.

Panorama Education partners with schools and districts to collect and analyze data about social-emotional learning, school climate, family engagement, and more. Download Panorama Education’s guide to measuring social-emotional learning or visit their website.

For more thought-provoking content on leadership and equity topics, check out ACSA’s other articles. ACSA is dedicated to providing administrators with relevant content on today’s most important education issues. Become a member and join us for our world-class Leadership Summit, Every Child Counts Symposium, professional development events, one-on-one mentorship program, ongoing Equity Project, statewide advocacy efforts, members-only benefits, and much more.

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