This week, as a member of the Juvenile Reform Project, a coalition of the Collaborative, New Hampshire Legal Assistance, ACLU of New Hampshire, Disability Rights Center - NH, and Waypoint, we released Keeping Kids in School: The Urgent Need for Reform of School Discipline in NH.
The report details the disproportionate numbers of out-of-school suspensions being given to children with behavioral health challenges and children of color. Students who are suspended are more likely to fall behind academically, drop out of school, and come into contact with the juvenile justice system. According to the report, in the 2014-15 school year:
- Students with disabilities received 38% of out-of-school suspensions, while only making up 20% of the student population.
- Students of color receivied 23% of out-of-school suspensions, while making up only 14% of the student population.
This type of exclusionary discipline does not work. It only harms children in the long run.
Recommendations from Keeping Kids in School:
- Implement an evidence-based prevention framework, Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS-B), in schools statewide.
- Reform NH's school discipline statute to set clear standards regarding the use of exclusionary discipline.
More information about MTSS-B, a policy recommendation from the report:
Keeping Kids in School recognizes the challenges New Hampshire schools face on a daily basis and calls for expansion and state- wide implementation of the evidence-based prevention framework, Multi-Tiered System of Supports for Behavioral Health and Wellness (MTSS-B) proven successful in many New Hampshire schools to support the behavioral health needs of students while also promoting academic achievement for all students. This framework is an important tool for school to manage these challenges in a coordinated and strategic way. Expansion of MTSS-B was also recommended in the 10 Year Mental Health Plan, the Governor’s School Safety Task Force report and is an integral part of building a coordinated and comprehensive System of Care under RSA 135-F.
School Discipline Reform & Support for MTSS-B: There will be a bill in both the House and the Senate looking to reform school discipline and address the disproportionate use of exclusionary discipline on children with behavioral health challenges and children of color. The House version of the bill, HB 677, will provide financial support for school districts to implement the Multi-Tiered System of Supports for Behavioral Health and Wellness (MTSS-B).
What is MTSS-B?
The MTSS-B model is an evidence-based prevention framework to support New Hampshire students’ social, emotional, and behavioral health needs. It has been implemented in many school districts in New Hampshire and has demonstrated clear evidence that high-fidelity implementation of the model is directly correlated with reduced exclusionary discipline shown through reduced student discipline referrals, enhanced behavioral health, enhanced attendance, improved academic achievement, and enhanced school climate.
What does MTSS-B look like in a school?
The MTSS-B framework offers school districts a coordinated strategic approach that consists of 1) a school wide system of evidence-based behavioral practices for all students, 2) a targeted system of practices for youth who need additional support, and 3) a tertiary system of intensive and individualized interventions for students with the greatest behavioral needs. The framework does not prescribe a particular strategy or curriculum for school districts, but rather offers school districts the ability to choose what works for their own communities.
Why do we need additional funding for MTSS-B?
The New Hampshire Department of Education’s Bureau of Student Wellness serves as the primary driver of the MTSS-B framework at the state-level and there are many school districts that have received federal funding to implement the model with fidelity. However high-fidelity implementation of MTSS-B requires considerable investment of resources at the local level and is dependent on key implementation drivers including training; ongoing coaching; monitoring, evaluation, and data-based decision-making; system-level administrative support, and reliable funding and human resource capacity.
Why invest in MTSS-B now?
As we all know, the ongoing mental health, substance misuse, and child protection crises have taken a significant toll on New Hampshire’s children and our schools are at the front lines. Schools are challenged daily to support the behavioral health needs of students while also promoting academic achievement for all students. The MTSS-B model is an evidence-based prevention framework to support all New Hampshire students. This framework is an important tool for school districts to manage these challenges in a coordinated and strategic way. Expansion of MTSS-B was recommended in the 10 Year Mental Health Plan, the Governor’s School Safety Task Force report and is an integral part of building a coordinated and comprehensive System of Care under RSA 135-F.