Posted on December 5, 2023

Portland Public Schools Must Now Consider Race, Gender Identity When Disciplining Students

Alec Schemmel, Washington Free Beacon, December 2, 2023

A new collective bargaining agreement between Portland Public Schools and its unionized teachers requires school officials to consider a disruptive student’s race, gender identity, and sexual orientation when crafting that student’s disciplinary plan.

When a student exhibits “continuous disruptive behavior,” the agreement says, school officials must develop a “support plan” for the student, which can include disciplinary measures such as detention. That plan “must take into consideration the impact of issues related to the student’s trauma, race, gender identity/presentation, sexual orientation … and restorative justice as appropriate for the student,” according to the agreement. The new disciplinary policy also eliminates mandatory suspensions for students who threaten or harm others—now, those students may only be removed from their classroom, not from school altogether.

The policy change reflects a broader effort at both the federal and local levels to develop race-conscious disciplinary rules for public school students. Earlier this year, for example, the Biden administration released a memo urging schools to refrain from suspending students for truancy, arguing that “significant disparities by race … have persisted in the application of student discipline.” School districts in Washington and Illinois, meanwhile, have adopted disciplinary policies that aim to provide a “culturally responsive” and “restorative approach” to student discipline.


The district’s collective bargaining agreement attempts to center school disciplinary procedures on “racial equity and social justice.” In a November 2022 memo, for example, Portland Public Schools’ collective bargaining team argued that “Black, Native American, and other students of color are referred out of class significantly more often,” reflecting the need to instill “Restorative Practices” into the district’s disciplinary process.


The district’s decision to change its disciplinary procedures for students comes after Portland-area students experienced an uptick in fights and behavioral problems after returning to the classroom for the 2021 school year. {snip}