Cover story: Matt Haney on reducing school suspensions

The Jan. 28, 2014 cover of the San Francisco Chronicle (via The Newseum) The San Francisco Chronicle has a front-page story today on the push to reduce the number of suspensions in San Francisco's public schools and the resolution being considered by the San Francisco school board to restrict suspensions to more serious offenses.

The resolution, authored by school board member and fellow Matt Haney, would end the practice of suspending students for willful defiance -- a loosely-defined category of misbehavior. In his capacity as a fellow, Matt has been using human-centered design to work with schools and students around San Francisco.

In the piece, however, the interview lens was turned on him, and he described his own personal history when it came to school suspensions:

"I was given a lot of second chances, which a lot of people who do not look like me didn't get," said Haney, who is white. "Some of my best friends ended up in jail or worse. I feel like I saw that start in school."

He said he wants to stop the downward spiral before it starts.

"The students being suspended are the ones who most need our support," he said. "Suspension can be a crutch. We feel like we've done something when we've actually made it worse."

Read the full article on

Rethinking school discipline

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. (YouTube) The topic of school discipline has been bubbling up in the news, with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announcing on Jan. 8 new federal guidelines for school discipline, citing the race and gender disparities among those students suspended and expelled.

"Together, we call on state and district and local school leaders to rethink school discipline," says Duncan in an accompanying video.

Here's what the Secretary had to say over Twitter:

One of our fellows has been working diligently on this issue. You may have noticed this opinion piece from Matt Haney and Neva Walker over the holiday break. Matt is a fellow and a San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education Commissioner. Neva is the executive director of Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth in San Francisco.

In the piece, titled "San Francisco schools need solutions, not suspensions", the co-authors make the case for why San Francisco schools need to move away from suspending students for "willful defiance" and towards other, more effective disciplinary actions. They write:

The good news is that there are proven alternatives: Restorative practices help students accept responsibility, repair harm and contribute as a positive member of the school community. Positive behavioral supports and trauma-sensitive practices give teachers the tools to set clear behavioral expectations and address the needs of their most challenging students. These interventions don't just reduce suspensions; they also lead to more supportive, caring school environments.

Read the full op-ed over on