Tuesday, September 30, 2014

California First in the Nation to Eliminate Student Suspension for Minor Behavior

From ACLU of Northern California:

SACRAMENTO, CA  – Today California becomes the first state in the nation to eliminate suspensions for its youngest children, and all expulsions for all students for minor misbehavior such as talking back, failing to have school materials and dress code violations. Gov. Jerry Brown’s signing today of AB 420 caps a landmark year for the movement away from harsh discipline policies and toward positive discipline and accountability approaches that keep children in school.

AB 420 places limits on the use of school discipline for the catch-all category known as “willful defiance,” which also includes minor school disruption. Willful defiance accounts for 43% of suspensions issued to California students, and is the suspension offense category with the most significant racial disparities.  For the next 3.5 years, the law eliminates in-school and out-of-school suspensions for children in grades K-3 for disruptive behavior currently captured in Education Code section 48900(k) and bans all expulsions for this reason. The bill was co-sponsored by Public Counsel, Children Now, Fight Crime Invest in Kids, and the ACLU of California and supported by a statewide coalition of organizations.

The signing of AB 420 is the latest in a series of influential local and state reforms and milestones to reform harsh, disciplinary practices in California in 2014, including:
  • New agreements between school policing agencies and school districts to limit the filing of criminal charges and citations against students for minor infractions and instead refer them to counseling and other support services and put in place other protections.  These agreements are now in place in Los Angeles, Oakland, Pasadena, and San Francisco Unified School Districts.
  • Decisions by a growing number of school boards to go beyond AB 420 and ban the use of the catch-all category of “willful defiance” as a cause for suspensions and expulsions and instead rely on the other 24 more specific rationales for suspension spelled out in the California Education Code.  These policies have been adopted by San Francisco and Los Angeles (all grades, suspension and expulsion), Oakland (expulsion), and Azusa Unified School District (phased out over the next 3 years).
  • A first-in-the-nation decision by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing to require training in best practices in classroom management and positive school discipline for new school principals and administrators.
  • Significant investments in positive school discipline programs and strategies under the state’s new Local Control Funding Formula law that includes a new requirement that schools reduce suspensions and expulsions, develop specific strategies for doing so, and monitor data as a way of assessing “school climate” and the quality of the learning environment.  
  • A sharp decline in suspensions, with a 14.1% decrease in suspensions in the 2012-13 school year and a 27% drop in the last three years, according to California Department of Education data released in January.
Though this progress is significant and hopeful, California still suspended 329,142 students in the 2012-13 school year and issued more than 600,000 suspensions, with 43% being suspended for minor misbehavior and students of color being on the receiving end of significantly more harsh discipline.  In 2012-13, African-American students made up 6.3 percent of total enrollment, but 16.2 percent of suspensions.  Latino students made up 52.7 percent of total enrollment, but 54.6 percent of suspensions. White students made up 25.5 percent of total enrollment, but 20.9 percent of suspensions.

 California’s coalition of state and local school discipline reform parents, educators, students, community, law enforcement, civil rights leaders will continue to work toward:
  • Ending the use of “willful defiance” suspensions for all students, not just young children
  • Increased state funding for positive school discipline approaches including Positive Behavior Intervention and Restorative Practices
  • Promoting best practices in schools, including reforms in teacher and administrator training,
  • Developing stronger Local Control Accountability Plans that include funding and training for alternative discipline practices
  • Reducing use of all suspensions for any reason by at least 80% by 2020
I applaud what looks like a lot of hard work by many dedicated people.

Being out of class does not serve a student nor does it teach him/her anything about altering behavior issues.

Especially for younger students, it can be devastating.  ( I know a child - who in these first weeks of school as an SPS kindergartener - is having trouble adjusting and threw a block at another child.  The school suspended him for a day and want his parents to change to half-day K.  He's white and he's five years old.  I couldn't believe it.  They are fighting back and have enrolled him in a social learning program and have asked the district for help as well.  It can't be the first time in the history of the world that a kindergartener was having adjustment programs.)

The one caveat is that teachers MUST be supported with multiple resources.  It is unclear to me in reading this if a child can be ordered out of the classroom (which is not suspension, just "go to the office.")  But yes, there are kids who have some behavior issues and that can be helped but in the meantime, with larger class sizes, teachers are going to need those tools.  Otherwise, you'll have some real issue with crowd control. 


Anonymous said...
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Melissa Westbrook said...

No name calling. Try again.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I think this is terrific. I hope there is a push for something like this in our state.

I honestly did not know until last year how common it is for very young kids, even kindergartners, to be suspended in SPS (and for throwing a block? for what else?). What does a kindergartner even learn from that suspension? Is it supposed to teach the kid something, or is it just a way to get rid of the kid for the rest of the day?

And of course the disproportionate rates of discipline for minority students and students with disabilities are truly disturbing. Maybe this would help?


Anonymous said...

Hope to see this coming to our schools soon.

-HS parent

mirmac1 said...

Yes CR. A teacher friend and I had a falling out because she felt calling the police on kindergartners was justified....crickets.

Anonymous said...

Curious if charter schools will have to change their practices and abide by this, or are they exempt and can continue to eliminate students by suspending/expelling kids for whatever reason they deem valid?


mosfet said...

This is good. Suspension is a punishment for the students' parents, not the student, and it only puts the kid behind in school.

Anonymous said...

You know how when you get on public transportation in most major cities, you can feel like you're in a moving homeless shelter for people with lots of problems who've been dumped on the streets? If you're of an age, you might even remember the fights about 'de-institutionalization' decades ago, in which the most out of touch Big Job At the Big University Live In Fancy Queen Anne Neighborhood liberals basically teamed up with right wingers who want government to work for the wealthy, period.
This is the same kind of law. Into my 2nd decade at the 9-12 level, we're plagued by regulations and laws and rules which Sound Great! and aren't paid for. Between Do-Gooders Without A Clue, and Privateers looking to outsource the entire enterprise to their buddies, the in the building working stiffs are getting another Whoopy-Do happy happy law dumped on our heads.

Why is calling people what they are


Melissa Westbrook said...

CT, charter are supposed to be public so you'd think they would have to follow this but it depends on how California's charter law is written.