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Indiana School Officials Attend White House Discipline Summit

Eric Castro

Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Lewis Ferebee and two other administrators are at the White House today for a conversation on school discipline. Reducing suspension and expulsions rates is a priority of the Obama administration.

In the past year at IPS, student suspensions, expulsions and arrests have been dramatically cut.

The reason? The district is focusing more on helping students understand and control why they act out instead of kicking them out of school.

“What we are trying to do is use behavior, especially inappropriate behavior, as an opportunity for instruction," says IPS Positive Discipline Coordinator Cynthia Jackson. "So there is going to be some opportunity for natural consequences but also an opportunity to learn new skills.”

Jackson joins Ferebe and Arsenal Tech principal Julie Bakehorn at the White House where national experts and key Obama staff will discuss ways to improve school discipline.

Jackson has overseen a revision to the IPS student code of conduct and training for teachers to become more proactive toward student’s needs.

“You've got to look at the whole child. And I think the districts who provide supports that are looking at children’s academic and social and emotional growth -- that children are more successful,” she says.

Jackson says all schools should evaluate their discipline policies.

In Indiana, lawmakers are already looking at what is going on in classrooms.

That’s because U.S. Department of Education has reported Indiana is one of five states with male suspension rates higher than the nation for every racial and ethnic group.