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Suspensions and expulsions in special education programs decline in Spokane Public Schools

UPDATED: Tue., Nov. 19, 2019

Spokane Public Schools is making solid progress on recommendations to improve its special education programs, administrators say.

“Most of the recommendations have been completed,” said Special Education Director Becky Ramsey, who along with Associate Superintendent Adam Swinyard will outline the progress to the Spokane School Board on Wednesday evening.

The updates are given quarterly, Ramsey said Tuesday.

The work is driven partly by a study commissioned by the district with the Urban Special Education Leadership Collaborative in fall 2017.

The report ended with 20 recommendations. Among the most important were better training of staff in de-escalation techniques, and alternatives to suspensions and restraints.

The district has taken several steps to approach the problem, with encouraging results. A year ago at this time, special education programs reported that 335 students had been “excluded” – that is, suspended or expelled.

So far this year, 252 have faced exclusionary discipline.

The total number of exclusions dropped even more sharply, from 490 to 323.

The district is hopeful those numbers will drop even further after staff receive training in Crisis Prevention Intervention and Life Space Crisis Intervention, which are aimed at turning problems into opportunities to learn and build relationships.

A de-escalation-only version of the Crisis Prevention Intervention program is being offered to all building staff, while Life Space Crisis Intervention training has begun for staffers who work with certain students.

The district goal is to have at least 100 staff members receive the training by spring 2020.

One of the key recommendations of the Urban Collaborative report was that the district develop a model for a Multitiered System of Supports, or MTSS, which is a concept for problem-solving promoted by the Washington state Superintendent of Public Instruction’s office.

During the 2017-2018 school year, the district formed a MTSS implementation work group, which has supported the development of the district’s MTSS model and frameworks.

This structure includes MTSS specialists who support each building.

All MTSS specialists received over 50 hours of training during the 2018-2019 school year.

This year, all building staff are receiving information and training on the district’s MTSS model and intervention process.

At the same time, Ramsey said the district is working to meet recommendations to improve its inclusion rate – that is, the number of students with disabilities who learn alongside nondisabled peers in general education classrooms.

That progress will be aided by a portion of a $25 million fund from the state superintendent’s office.

“All of our work lives within that MTSS framework,” Ramsey said.

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