All children have the potential to succeed.

Policy Advocacy

All of TeamChild's advocacy efforts are grounded in the experiences of our clients.  In addition to providing legal services to young people, TeamChild advocates address patterns of inequity by supporting broader policy strategies, whether at a local, state, or national level.  For example, we have been pushing for changes to school discipline policies, after helping thousands of Washington State youth with school discipline issues over the years.  Email if you want to learn more about transforming school discipline in Washington, and to get involved with efforts during legislative sessions.  Or just tell us your story on our website!

School Discipline

Students can’t learn if they aren’t in the classroom. Every year, thousands of Washington students are excluded from school. Students of color, low income students, and special education students are disciplined at higher rates than other students, which contribute to Washington’s opportunity and achievement gaps.

Statewide Legislative Changes

During the 2013 legislative session, TeamChild worked closely with community partners and advocates in a statewide coalition committed to transforming school discipline policies. As a result, we helped pass legislation (ESSB 5946) that will unify the way school districts collect and analyze discipline data, and keep more students who are disciplined engaged in school.  School discipline highlights from the new law include:

  • One-year limits to long-term suspensions and expulsions. However, when based on public health or safety, a school may petition the superintendent of the district to exceed the one-year limit.
  • Emergency expulsions must now end or be changed to another form of discipline within 10 school days. An emergency expulsion is when a student is removed from school immediately. While the original intention had been to allow a school to investigate the situation and end or convert the emergency expulsion, emergency expulsions were often not being converted.
  • Public data on school discipline must be provided by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). OSPI must publicly post discipline data online that is broken down by race, socioeconomic status, and gender. For the first time, the state will know how many students are being suspended and expelled, along with disproportionality rates for different groups of students.
  • Reengagement plans must be developed for students who have been disciplined by their schools, tailored to the student’s circumstances, including consideration of the incident that led to the student’s long-term suspension or expulsion. Prior to the implementation of the new law, schools were not required to plan for the student’s return. 
  • A statewide taskforce has been created that will develop consistent definitions of discipline and enhanced collection of discipline data. This will include information about what educational services are being provided while students are out of school, the status of petitions to reenroll in school, and the number of school dropouts as a result of discipline.

We've developed some practical Tip Sheets to help you implement some of these changes!

Reclaiming Students Report

In December 2012, TeamChild and Washington Appleseed published a joint report, Reclaiming Students: the educational and economic costs of exclusionary discipline in Washington State.   Reclaiming Students presents a first of its kind look at the statewide impact of school exclusions on Washington State students and makes recommendations for how to move forward in transforming school discipline and keeping more students engaged in school and on track to graduate.  Many thanks to our partners on the project including:  Washington Appleseed, the ACLU of Washington and Garvey Schubert Barer.

Reclaiming Students is an important tool to educate policy makers, school districts, parents, students, and other stakeholders about the negative impact of current school discipline practices on students.  Help spread the word and educate others by downloading and sharing the following resources:

Full Report (PDF)

Executive Summary (PDF)

Findings & Recommendations (PDF)

Infographic (JPEG)