"There's a little room there that looks like a jail cell," says Malikka Williams. "There's no bed in it, there's a little slit window that you can look through. Tears just started coming down my eyes, because it reminded me of a jail cell for psychiatric."
That's one parent's description of what's called the "Calm Down" room at UP Academy Holland, a K-5 public school in Dorchester.
In 2013, the state declared Holland a "failing" school. UP Academy stepped in to turn the school around under state supervision. And the school's test scores have gone up. But so has the suspension rate. UP Academy Holland suspended more kindergartners last year than any other school in the state.
That's partly because the school uses a controversial theory of discipline that has its origins in law enforcement.
- "Of Holland’s 233 in- and out-of-school suspensions so far this year, 117 were for first- and second-graders, according to the records supplied to WBUR. The school has about 250 students in those grades. Students with disabilities substantial enough to keep them out of regular classrooms were suspended 37 times, the records show."
- "Massachusetts public and charter schools suspended kindergarten and pre-kindergarten students 603 times in the 2014-15 school year, a WBUR analysis of state data shows. Students in their first year of school were sent home for offenses that included hitting, disrupting, disrespecting, throwing things and fighting. Dolores Michel’s son Dashon got one of those 603 punishments. He was suspended from school before he could read, write or tie his shoes."
- "According to data the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released in December, 10,000 fewer public school students were suspended in the 2014-15 academic year compared to 2013-14."
This segment aired on March 9, 2016.