Recent MAC legal win uncovers systemic failures of Boston Public Schools
BPS’ unlawful double punishment policy violated student rights
A recent Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Problem Resolution System (PRS) decision involving a MAC client revealed a widespread unlawful discipline practice in the Boston Public Schools (BPS). As a result, BPS is required to change their policies and systems to align with the law and promote justice for students.
In the case, MAC’s client, a BPS high school student, completed a 3 day suspension for a disciplinary infraction. Upon completing his suspension, the school expelled the student for the same offense for which he had already been suspended – a clear violation of law. In its investigations, DESE also uncovered that BPS maintained an unlawful policy permitting the district to punish students twice for the same offense – contradicting a vital due process principle in our justice system. MAC’s partner organization, Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS) had filed a complaint regarding the same issue the prior school year, also leading to a noncompliance finding. Although BPS had already been made aware of this issue in the earlier case, systemic corrections had not yet been made.
In the decision, BPS acknowledged their noncompliance with the law and agreed to revise their code of conduct and issue a memorandum to staff regarding the change of policy. In addition, they agreed to provide professional development for all BPS staff clarifying the key protection that students may not be disciplined twice for the same offense.
“This decision represents a systemic change – not only is our client back in his original school and learning after being unlawfully punished, BPS was required to change its policy so that this won’t happen to other students in the future.” – Liza Hirsch, MAC Senior Attorney