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Disciplinary Reform Impacts Dallas County Students’ Academics and Mental Health


Reset centers are redefining discipline across Texas. By providing struggling students additional support, district leaders are dramatically decreasing rates of out-of-school and in-school suspensions and ensuring more students stay in the classroom.

These reforms have also slowed repeated disciplinary infractions. Since this new strategy was employed three years ago, data show recidivism has fallen by nearly a third, with Black and Hispanic students benefiting the most. But this success did not occur overnight. It was a result of over a decade of advocacy by students, parents, educators and district leaders.

During the 2013-2014 school year, over 36,000 Texas students in kindergarten through second grade faced out-of-school suspensions, according to Texas Appleseed. Even more concerning, over 2,500 of these students who were temporarily removed from instructional time were in pre-K.

The organization also noted these disturbing rates disproportionately affected Black students, who accounted for 42% of all out-of-school suspensions among pre-K through fifth-grade students during that academic year. Repeated exclusion from the classroom due to disciplinary offenses led many students to eventually drop out before graduating, which increased the likelihood they would interact with the criminal justice system.

Dallas ISD leaders in 2017 wanted to address this issue promptly by implementing a disciplinary policy that eliminated out-of-school suspensions for pre-K through third grade. The work didn’t stop there.

Additional data showed students of all ages were receiving out-of-school or in-school suspension for offenses that could have been handled without classroom interruption. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic reinforced both the importance of direct instruction and the possibilities presented by new technology.

All of this, combined with the sustained, impassioned advocacy of Dallas community members, educational leaders and families, led the Dallas ISD superintendent at the time, Michael Hinojosa, to ask: "Why should I ever suspend a student again?" And on June 24, 2021, the Dallas Board of Trustees made history as the first large urban school district in the nation to end out-of-school and in-school suspensions at all grade levels. With access to $4 million or more in funding approved by the board and with years of supported data, reset centers were implemented on all 52 comprehensive middle and high school campuses.

Students typically spend one to three days in the centers, which are staffed by trained coordinators. Some students are offered temporary positive and behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS), an evidence-based framework to improve student wellbeing and outcomes every day. The amount of time a student spends at a reset center depends on that student’s unique needs.

“We must understand that a one-size-fits-all disciplinary tactic is not beneficial to all of our students,” said Miguel Solis, chief of staff at Commit and former Dallas ISD trustee. He was present for these policy changes. “By providing more personalized and structured strategies such as reset centers, we can eliminate the punishments that continue far into the future.”

Exclusionary discipline restricts time spent on instruction, which can cause students to fall behind academically. To combat this issue, it is vital that students remain on pace with their studies by remaining in classrooms. Studies indicate that since the implementation of reset centers, students are spending more time in class, as the number of in-school suspensions, out-of-school suspensions and reset center placements fell 80% from 2019 to 2023.

Students are benefiting from these restorative practices. They are receiving tailored social and mental health support that keeps them on track with their academic journeys while ensuring disciplinary challenges aren’t redundant. The commitment to reset centers will further address the root of students’ offenses and focus on their success in the classroom and beyond.

To hear more about the history of this reform and its positive impact on Dallas County classrooms, watch this video or read this blog.


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