San Francisco Unified eliminates ‘willful defiance’ as a reason to expel or suspend students

Credit: John C. Osborn/EdSource Today

The percentage of all suspensions that were for willful defiance dropped from 48 percent in 2011-12 to 43 percent in 2012-13.

Administrators in San Francisco Unified will no longer be able to use “willful defiance” as a reason to suspend or expel a student, beginning in the 2014-15 school year.

San Francisco’s school board voted unanimously Tuesday to eliminate the controversial category, which has been used disproportionately to suspend African American students in that district and also statewide.

San Francisco joins Los Angeles Unified, which eliminated the category of willful defiance of school authorities or disruptive behavior as a reason to expel or suspend students beginning this school year.

Statewide, willful defiance accounted for 43 percent of all suspensions in 2012-13. African American students, who make up 6 percent of statewide enrollment, accounted for 19 percent of willful defiance suspensions.

In San Francisco, data show that African American students make up about 10 percent of the student body but account for more than half of suspensions and expulsions. Latino students also were disproportionately suspended.

In both San Francisco and Los Angeles, teachers can still remove a disruptive student by sending the student to the principal’s office, to a counselor, or to another teacher’s class. This is not considered a suspension because the student would miss only the one class. However, San Francisco’s board plans to monitor data on such removals as well.

The district’s decision is part of an overall plan to move to more positive disciplinary practices. Teachers will be trained in de-escalation techniques and other proven disciplinary approaches during the next three years. Because of the focus on training, the teachers union, United Educators of San Francisco, supported the change in policy.

“Our district is unified and committed to supporting our teachers with the tools they need to educate all of our students,” said Commissioner Matt Haney, who introduced the “Safe and Supportive Schools” resolution. “There’s a lot of hard work left to do, but we’re ready for it.”

Michael Britt, who teaches math at Burton High School, came to the board meeting to offer his support for the resolution.

“We are in the business of building young men and women,” he said in prepared remarks. “Our policies and practices should reflect that mission and deserve serious evaluation when they do not.”

“We need to be keeping our kids in the classroom,” Britt told EdSource. He said some of the changes in approach that teachers can make are simple, such as using positive, rather than negative, narration. “I never tell my kids to stop talking. I tell them what they should be doing. I’ll say, ‘I’m looking at you to do problem number 1.’”

Students will still be held accountable for their behavior and, under the restorative justice approach to discipline, will have to make amends for their bad deeds. For example, if a student disrupts a class, he could apologize to his classmates and teacher and stay after school to help the teacher prepare for the next day.

“It’s a different system of accountability,” said Laura Faer, an attorney with the public interest law firm Public Counsel, which has been advocating for the change in policy. Students often see suspensions as unsupervised vacations, she said, but in many communities students are at risk of becoming victims of violence or part of the juvenile justice system when they are sent home from school. Research has shown that students who are suspended are more likely to drop out of school and end up incarcerated.

With restorative justice, “they are held accountable to their peers and to their community,” she said. “We need to teach them and work with them and hold them closer so they can succeed.”

If two of the state’s largest districts, which educate many students who come from violent and impoverished communities, can make this change, Faer said she is hopeful that more districts will follow.

An EdSource analysis of the 30 largest districts found huge disparities in their reliance on willful defiance to suspend students, with some districts citing it as the reason for more than two-thirds of their suspensions, and others less than a third. Statewide, suspensions for willful defiance dropped from 48 percent of all suspensions in 2011-12 to 43 percent in 2012-13.

Britt said he is glad his district is being a leader on this issue. “We’ve been on the wrong side,” he said. “We want to be one of the first districts to move in the right direction.”


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52 Responses to “San Francisco Unified eliminates ‘willful defiance’ as a reason to expel or suspend students”

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  1. Alex on Jan 1, 2015 at 10:48 pm01/1/2015 10:48 pm

    • -11-100

    Okay, I agree with this type of law passing. You can’t be making comments saying stuff about children and what you think they go through especially here in California. While I was in middle school like 4 years ago, I went to a new middle school for 8th grade. Let me tell you those teachers were utterly racist and overly sensitive to the most simple actions a student could have done. This school was heavily Hispanic and some teachers would find any reason to either suspend a student. So I am glad this is happening

  2. Floyd Thursby on Mar 15, 2014 at 3:48 am03/15/2014 3:48 am

    • 000

    OK, let’s see how much success this leads to. Let’s see if this closes the achievement gap and makes poor kids study more the way Asians do, or if it just makes them realize what they can get away with and destroy learning for the good kids. Give me a break. All this is going to do is cause more middle class people to go to private school and be homeschooled and add to racial segregation. Key for so many student’s success? Students who are willfully defying teachers? What percent of such students do you think will even graduate from college? Care to keep stats on that? Care to make a wager? I didn’t think so. All blather.

  3. Regis on Mar 3, 2014 at 11:28 am03/3/2014 11:28 am

    • 000

    So, all of those felons, that are overwhelmingly people of color that are residing in our prison system, are there because our school system suspended them for disruptive, unruly behavior?

    Again, it is the fault of the education system, that these people committed as juveniles, nearly 90% of the time, are committing violent crimes?

    Is that what I’m reading here? So, if they were suspended less, then, in five years, we should see a drop in juvenile crime, right?

    Why is it, that the school system, has to take place of mommy and daddy in instilling values to these people? Isn’t it the responsibility of the parents (or more likely, ‘parent’) to teach a child, before they ever, even go near a school as toddlers, etc, social values, such as how to behave in a public place? How not to graffiti every thing in sight, from scratching their placa on a mirror in the restroom of a nice restuarant, to defacing the gasoline pumps? How not to slash the cushions on public transportation and deface the glass? How not to fling your fast food trash out of the car, because somebody else will pick it up? How to keep your neighborhood clean? How to take care of your animals and not have them running in the street, like some third world country?

    Who’s supposed to teach them that? Us? You? Naaah, it must be racist. That’s an easy and chicken way out, if you ask me. How about asking, no demanding that the behavior in school, be to civilized standards, instead of lowering the bar? If there’s no negative blowback to the poor behavior, then what’s the use? Good luck to all of you, with this. We’ll need more prisons for sure. There are standards that have to be upheld, for any civilized society to function, period. Once you start what you’re doing here, you’re going down a slippery slope and I see nothing good coming out of this.

    The term ‘restorative justice’ makes me laugh. Try applying that in a criminal court of law. “I didn’t mean to rape her, but I can apply some restorative justice and that will make everything all right”. Right?


    • Don on Mar 3, 2014 at 4:35 pm03/3/2014 4:35 pm

      • 000

      Regis, these kids are not the cause of the problem and the idea is to prevent them from passing down the problems their parents and community passed on to them, if that’s possible. The issue here, among other things, is that schools are institutions of learning and to the extent we turn them into full service community agencies at great expense, how will that affect the quality of the education of all the students? I empathize with the plight of these kids who undergo daily strife. They are just kids after. But it seems to me that all the energy and money is going to the few at the expense of the many. In SFUSD all the money goes to a few schools with little to show for it.

      We are going to funnel more money into education in the years to come and though it is much needed it worries me that all of the new money will be spent on a small minority of students with no real accountability for results. It worries me that we focus only on failure and not on the many students who do well but could do better.

      San Francisco’s School Improvement Grant was hailed as a big success, but actually it was most a dismal failure and the amount of money poured down that hole was obscene.

      In SFUSD they say they are one of the top districts but they underperform almost across the board.

      You can check it out here:

  4. Selina on Mar 2, 2014 at 9:19 am03/2/2014 9:19 am

    • 000

    Do not get rid of Suspensions and don’t put this issue on teachers! Get of rid policy that suspends students for being tardy or having late class/homework. We need suspensions for students, when counseling and building positive relationships with defiant students don’t work because the student(s)are not willing to make better choices or changes. Also, get rid of those teachers who have a high rate of suspending African American and Latino students or white/other students, because it is obvious that they by have some hidden bias.


    • Selina on Mar 2, 2014 at 9:23 am03/2/2014 9:23 am

      • 000

      I meant to say “over” white/other students….not -or-

  5. Floyd Thursby on Mar 1, 2014 at 1:17 pm03/1/2014 1:17 pm

    • 000

    I don’t really believe these policies are racially biased. I believe that, just like certain laws, males violate them more than females and blacks more than whites and whites more than Asians and so forth. The murder law is the same, Asians murder 1/7th what whites do, per capita, meaning per person. Jews murder less than gentiles, poor more than rich, unemployed more than employed, straights more than gays, etc. I don’t complain that more Asians aren’t being put in jail for murder in SF (33% of the City, 4% of the murder convictions). I’m just happy my city is safer. Keeping the percentages of races is silly. If whites act out more, they get suspended more, if blacks do, they do. A fair policy just enforces the rules. It doesn’t keep track of who breaks them and assume racism if one group does more than another. Go to any prison and look at the races. Is that racist?


    • navigio on Mar 1, 2014 at 1:27 pm03/1/2014 1:27 pm

      • 000

      the answer to your last question is flat-out yes. you might read a bit more american history and follow even current-day legal process behavior if you’d like to understand why.

      flip-side stuff since you love the racial points so much: i’ve seen quotes from teachers who say they are less likely to give asians lower grades for similar performance because they know what kind of negative consequences that can have at home. ahem.

      • Don on Mar 1, 2014 at 7:14 pm03/1/2014 7:14 pm

        • 000


        I find myself coming to Floyd’s defense. Your reasoning for the “yes” answer implies that you read more than Floyd and are, therefore, more informed. If that’s so, why don’t you enlighten us instead of taking the lazy way out and implying your superior reason and knowledge? But if that knowledge includes the reasoning that the flip side of social destruction caused by racism is represented by the anecdotal notion that a few teachers sometimes give Asian students a grade break – then you need not bother. Asians do better because they work harder, period. And, though I’m not Asian, I find your anecdote insulting to thinking people of all colors.

        I will be the first to admit that cultural insensitivity and even racism play a part in the statistics of suspension, but racism is not the principle cause of the higher incidence in many non-Asian minorities. Suspensions including assault also show the same racial prevalence. Should we not remove violent offenders from school because it would be racist to do so? Districts won’t touch that due to the liability involved. What bothers me is this: social justice advocates tell us poverty is the cause of many behavioral issues in school. If it isn’t true and racism is the cause, the social justice agenda must be modified to reflect the new reality – that race is the cause of lower achievement. Are you suggesting, Navigio, that it should be?

        * The use of the term social justice implies that if one is not for the principles as described by the mainstream advocates one is therefore against social justice. That is a false dichotomy.

        • navigio on Mar 1, 2014 at 10:59 pm03/1/2014 10:59 pm

          • 000

          You’ve no need to be insulted. That statement was not malicious.

          Fwiw, my comment about grade inflation had zero to do with my response to his question about racism.

          And having a different perspective does not have to mean having ‘more’ perspective. The claim that there are things to learn out there in the real world does not have to be taken as ad hominem.

          The idea that the history of racism in this country does not play any role in the societal backdrop to education is unbelievably myopic. But more to the point, maybe you can also speak for Floyd on why we should not be looking at outcome when we try to measure equality.

  6. Don on Feb 28, 2014 at 2:54 pm02/28/2014 2:54 pm

    • 000

    Currently, this discussion seems divided between those you are 100% behind Restorative Practices and the ban on willful defiance suspensions and those who at least are willing to give RP a chance as long as teachers have the authority given them by the State to remove students to protect the integrity of the learning environment.

    If we can agree on that, I would put to you three problems.

    1. We understand that RP as an intervention is a process that takes time. People don’t change attitudes and behaviors overnight and that applies to both staff and students. What happens in the interim between the time a student disrupts the class until such time as the behavior is modified? And we can assume the same behavior is likely to occur regularly in the interim. Are teachers and students supposed to suck it up? I have worked as a teacher in high school. I am well aware of what one unruly student can do to the learning climate, let along several. If Paul is correct in that this ban will prevent teachers from removing students from class, what is the plan to keep the achievement on track?

    2. Even the most optimistic proponent of RP must admit that efficacy is not going to be 100% and somewhere considerably below that. What is the plan in those cases where RP is not an effective intervention?

    3. How does RP specifically reduce the racial disparities in willful defiance suspension rates? it’s been five years since SFUSD started using RP (2009 Resolution). And though suspensions are down, the preponderance of black and Latino suspensions remain proportionally the same. I submit that this does not bode well for RP as a solution to racial disparity even while it ameliorates suspension rates overall. Isn’t a ban simply a capitulation to the idea that RP has not succeeded as intended? Even the Superintendent is on record for saying it is disrespectful to force a ban. (See his quote in a comment above.)

    I would appreciate it if an RP proponent would answer these questions.

  7. Eleanore Stovall on Feb 28, 2014 at 11:25 am02/28/2014 11:25 am

    • 000

    Unfortunately too many black and brown students in public schools come from environments that are socially, politically and economically deprived; making it difficult for them to advance and compete when they are surrounded by poverty, racism, stereotypes and exploitation. A very viscous cycle.
    Too often these children are locked into this despair because of a myriad of reasons, but one being their inability to read and write. Many do not come from backgrounds where literacy is modeled and highly valued and as a result they never catch up unless they have a very effective teacher early on. So I’m not surprised by their disengaged and disruptive behavior, which too often begins in elementary school.
    Our schools need more mentor teachers working in the classrooms with new and experienced teachers. Students of color need to be exposed to a curriculum that is inclusive. One that exposes them to the positive contributions their ancestors made to the development of this country. Teachers need to teach from a different paradigm other than the deficit model. Respect difference….
    I hope all of you that had something to say about the problem try to do something to correct it.


    • Regis on Mar 3, 2014 at 11:42 am03/3/2014 11:42 am

      • 000

      “Unfortunately too many black and brown students in public schools come from environments that are socially, politically and economically deprived;”

      And who’s fault is that? The taxpayers? The schools? No, it’s the fault of generous government policies that pay people to have babies, they have no business having, period. Don’t have kids, that you don’t have the ability to raise, period. Problem solved.

      “Too often these children are locked into this despair because of a myriad of reasons, but one being their inability to read and write. Many do not come from backgrounds where literacy is modeled and highly valued and as a result they never catch up unless they have a very effective teacher early on”

      So, where’s the RESPONSIBILITY OF THE PARENT in all this? Aren’t they the ultimate source of responsibility to raise the child that they bore? Or is it somebody else’s job to do that? Like the Government? And from what I see, that’s working out real well, huh?

      “Students of color need to be exposed to a curriculum that is inclusive. One that exposes them to the positive contributions their ancestors made to the development of this country.”

      That’d be a thin book, compared to what the Europeans and their North American Descendants have wrought. Who created Western Civilization? Who invented the airplane? The automobile? Electricity? Modern Medicine? Sure there have been contributions, but overwhelmingly, it has been the aforementioned, that have made the biggest contributions. What do you see in Africa today? Mexico? Do you think the emphasis on Third World thinking, is going to extrapolate into First World gains? I think not. Give credit, where credit is due. Follow our model and you will succeed, period. Work hard, learn all you can, behave in a civilized manner, respect others and you will succeed.

  8. Riss Bloom on Feb 27, 2014 at 10:37 pm02/27/2014 10:37 pm

    • 000

    “Safe and Supportive Schools” is an inspiring shift in the way we think about school discipline and safety. As a native San Franciscan and product of its public schools, I’m excited that San Francisco’s leadership (advocates, organizers & elected officials) are taking up this issue and sending such a hopeful message to our students — that we expect the best from them and that we are committed to their success. I plan to raise my own children in this city someday and I hope that our schools continue the trend toward more innovative, less punitive disciplinary practices so that our schools and communities can be safe for ALL young people.


    • Don on Feb 28, 2014 at 10:00 pm02/28/2014 10:00 pm

      • 000

      Sounds like you’re reading from a script.

  9. Paul on Feb 27, 2014 at 8:50 pm02/27/2014 8:50 pm

    • 000

    Dennis, what are the specific reasons for UESF’s endorsement? I have always suspected that the main reason is that the policy does contain victories for teachers, notably, SFUSD’s commitment to properly staff in-school suspension. Some districts/schools flout Ed. Code 48910; if the administration accepts office referrals at all, the students really do just end up sitting beside the secretary, there being no one else to supervise them.

    First, a victory for teachers:

    “[C]onsistent in-school options…available with appropriately credentialed intensive supervision, behavioral counseling, and academic instruction for the duration of the teacher suspension from class.”

    But that was a pyrrhic victory. To win “resources” for in-school suspension, you gave up your main right to use in-school suspension: Ed. Code 48900(k) willful defiance/disruption.

    Now, the loss of authority for teachers:

    “[N]o student shall receive a
    suspension … solely on the basis of ‘disruption/willful defiance’ (48900(k)).”

    Ask your counsel and you’ll find that there is no legal grey area. When a teacher wants to send a student to the “space” you refer to, during class time, it is an in-school suspension under 48910. The teacher *must* cite one of the reasons in 48900, willful defiance/disruption being the common choice because violence, vandalism, and the others are so specific and so infrequent.

    I’m also curious whether rank-and-file teachers voted, and if so, whether young/low-seniority teachers and teachers in the City’s most troubled schools turned out in proportion to their share of the workforce.

    Readers should keep in mind that union executives in large districts don’t normally teach. Before they left the classroom, they had enough seniority to choose the least troublesome schools, grade levels, and/or courses (if they wanted). In some cases, they even had enough influence to choose the least troublesome classes and students.

    Most teachers would welcome alternative “off-line” tools like restorative justice, but informed teachers wouldn’t give up the authority to temporarily remove a student from class to stop a disruption in “real time” and continue teaching.

  10. NVSF on Feb 27, 2014 at 2:50 pm02/27/2014 2:50 pm

    • 000

    As a working class Latina that that grew up in San Francisco and was educated in SFUSD public schools I commend the School Boards decision!
    This decision didn’t come out of no where. There are strong evidence-based restorative practices that have been proven to work. And community members, educators, youth, and more know this and organized around this issue in partnership with the school board on the Safe and Supportive Schools Resolution. Given that we know restorative practices work and that school discipline is applied disproportionately by teachers and administrators because of racial biases and cultural incompetence and not simply because black and brown kids are misbehaving more, why wouldn’t we want to more widely use restorative practices? We hear story after story from young people themselves about the difference restorative practices have made in their education and their lives (I’ve experienced this in my own life/family.) These are stories we should be amplifying, respecting, and ultimately, validating.

  11. Dennis Kelly on Feb 27, 2014 at 2:18 pm02/27/2014 2:18 pm

    • 000

    As president of the United Educators of San Francisco, I am proud to support this effort.
    Disruptions happen in class and must be dealt with. If we can deal with them in the school, repair the damage, and keep the student from leaving the building, we will have made progress. This calls for specific resources: space (not the seat next to the school secretary); a program molded to work with the problems of the students;training for all involved.


    • Don on Feb 27, 2014 at 8:43 pm02/27/2014 8:43 pm

      • 000

      So, what you’re saying, Mr. Kelly, is that you supported the immediate ban although SFUSD hasn’t yet put the resources in place to implement it properly. I guess that’s OK when your priority is keeping students inside a building – as in warehousing. That unruly students make learning for others difficult to impossible isn’t even a consideration for you. Why? Because fewer suspensions equates to more ADA and that increases your bargaining power. I know why you really support this ban and student achievement be damned! It’s for the children!

    • Floyd Thursby on Feb 28, 2014 at 1:38 am02/28/2014 1:38 am

      • 000

      Dennis Kelly, what do you think of the fact half the whites in SF go private, adding far more to racial segregation than the neighborhood preference you fought against. Rich whites see one argument and freak out. Barely any in Pacific Heights go to Cobb, right there. We need to enforce rules strictly if we want to attract the wealthy to SFUSD schools and have racially diverse schools. The group lacking is whites, 9% at Marina, neighborhood 95% white, Cobb 9% white, neighborhood Pacific Heights over 90%. Before you blame conservative areas, so-called liberal areas like Bernal Heights and Glen Park have similar segregation. We need to make people with options know their kids will be safe and advertize to them a recent book which showed there is no test score advantage, no factual educational advantage, to private school over public school after controlling for family income. We have to have common sense solutions to get all San Franciscans in school togeter as was the dream of Martin Luther King and Brown v. Topeka but is rarely a reality. San Francisco is more segregated than Mississippi or Texas. So much for genuine liberalism.

  12. Michael Katz on Feb 27, 2014 at 12:43 pm02/27/2014 12:43 pm

    • 000

    Great news!!
    Thank you San Francisco for acknowledging this problem and taking real steps to address it. If teachers are keen to reduce what they perceive as disruptive behavior, why not use proven strategies, like positive disciplinary practices? Yes, they go against the putative status quo but the status quo isn’t working if you look at the research. Pushing students out of the classroom is double punishment, it undermines teacher credibility, and creates huge social costs down the line. Most problematic is the obvious racially bias here. Is the accepted assumption here that black and brown youth are inherently more challenging than white students?

    SFUSD- now that the policy is passed, please invest in support systems for teachers and schools to adopt positive disciplinary cultures. Put your money where your mouth is.

  13. Lily on Feb 27, 2014 at 11:28 am02/27/2014 11:28 am

    • 000

    I’m very excited about this news. I work in the youth realm and have friends who are teachers and counselors. Just yesterday my friend, a counselor, told me about how teachers send students out of their classrooms to her with a note saying “I cannot deal with this student. Keep them for 40 minutes.”

    I’m glad that the Teachers Union supports it, and it moves toward helping teachers gain tools to positively address behavior problems. Rather than send the student out for 40 minutes, this teacher can have the necessary training to address the young person’s problem without having to displace the student to another space. No child, REGARDLESS OF RACE, should be considered inherently bad. A school is a learning environment, and this is clearly a step toward teaching young people to be productive members of society.

  14. Michael on Feb 27, 2014 at 10:32 am02/27/2014 10:32 am

    • 000

    Stupid is doing the same thing and expecting different results. California has been suspending students at high rates for years, and it’s teaching students all the wrong lessons. Educators are realizing there’s a better way to have safe schools and hold students accountable for their behavior. If we want young people to make good choices, we need to give them real choices, especially for teenagers who are learning about freedom and responsibility for the first time. Kicking a student out for talking back or disrupting might work temporarily, but that student comes back less engaged and more disruptive. California educators, judges, and parents all want to change the future for students of color. And that won’t happen by just repeating the same statistics and blaming kids and parents. Congratulations to San Francisco for recognizing that we’re all in this together, and everyone deserves a chance at an education.

  15. Don on Feb 27, 2014 at 10:06 am02/27/2014 10:06 am

    • 000

    If one makes a charge of racism it is incumbent upon that person to provide evidence of it, otherwise the charge is nothing more than an attempt to stir the pot and inflame racial tensions. I didn’t see any evidence of bias presented in the article. What I read were statistics demonstrating a prevalence for more suspensions in certain minority groups. If an outsized racial proportion of suspensions proves bias, does that mean incarceration rates are also biased? We’ve been down this road before and we should learn some lessons from these kinds of statistical analyses.

    None of this is to imply that Restorative Practice is not an effective tool. In San Francisco where it has been in practice since 2010 suspension rates have dropped by 30% as of last year. However, the percentages by race have not changes appreciably. With or without restorative practices (assuming they have been applied properly) the same proportional incidence applies. This leads me to believe that RP is effective in general, but it is not a solution to the higher racial incidence. Therefore, framing the issue as a racial one is misleading and is, in fact, stirring the pot.


    • Don on Feb 27, 2014 at 10:34 am02/27/2014 10:34 am

      • 000

      Restorative Practices asks that conflict be resolved through direct interaction between the parties involved. For example, a bully and the victim talk out the issue or write reflections on their actions and how they can change those actions in the future. How many times have students who perpetually interrupt class been asked to mediate with that whole class? Frequent classroom outbursts victimize large numbers of students who have a right to equal opportunity of education.

      From my perspective, this issue needs to be divided into two separate components. The first has to do with how best to advise and direct the students prone to disruption based upon the cause of that behavior. The second has to do with protection of a student’s right to an education. When we have large numbers of students adversely affected by disruption in the education setting for no other reason than that they happen to be in the room, then we have a statistical prevalence of victimhood. The proponents of the suspension ban concern themselves with the racial prevalence of certain suspensions. By the same logic, shouldn’t the prevalence of victimhood also raise a red flag. This seems like selective amnesia.

      • Paul on Feb 27, 2014 at 9:14 pm02/27/2014 9:14 pm

        • 000

        Don, I appreciate your willingness to make the unpopular claim that poor behavior, not race, correlates with suspension. I had no idea that restorative justice, while reducing suspensions in San Francisco, had failed to alter the racial breakdown of the population of suspended students. I’d be curious to see those statistics.

        I’m also glad that a handful of us still care about students who *don’t* get suspended. Whatever resources are made available after a student’s anger has cooled (and also for prevention), the authority to temporarily remove a disruptive student and go on teaching must be preseved. Many incidenta fall short of violence, vandalism, etc., hence the need for teacher-initiated, in-school, out-of-class suspensions on grounds of willful defiance/disruption.

  16. Andrew on Feb 27, 2014 at 8:21 am02/27/2014 8:21 am

    • 000

    Interesting that education is supposed to take place in a willfully disrupted environment that no working adult would accept as conducive to collective accomplishment in any adult work setting – office, lab, operating room, courtroom, or boardroom. But doubtless willful defiance makes good spectator sport for certain other bored students when allowed to remain in situ. Adding tools such as restorative justice makes good sense, but banishing the use of other tools even when needed for the good of the rest of the class makes little sense. Seems to me that wise and resourceful teachers need a full range of tools for the benefit of their students as a whole.

  17. CarolineSF on Feb 27, 2014 at 7:57 am02/27/2014 7:57 am

    • 000

    This article is relevant to the notion that punishment is based on racism.

    That said, should kids be punished for behavior that results from trauma they experience in their homes and communities? And is the punishment effective?

    It seems like there are different strands of this issue and they’re mistakenly, simplistically being lumped together.


    • Paul on Feb 27, 2014 at 9:53 am02/27/2014 9:53 am

      • 000

      Interesting article, Caroline. It’s important to be aware of hardships that students may face outside of school.

      We must separate the questions of punishment and behavior reform from the need to continue teaching a class when there is a disruption.

      For punishment/reform, SFUSD’s policy mandates an alternative to suspension. I’m the first to agree that suspension is ineffective for punishment/reform. Students look forward to minimally-supervised time out of class and unsupervised time out of school. In a legal climate where suspension is the highest routine penalty that teachers (out-of-class, in-school suspension) and school site administrators (out-of-school suspension) in non-charter public schools can assign, reforming behavior that way is hopeless.

      Restorative justice might or might not reform behavior, but as far as punishment goes, it suffers from the same defect as suspension. What student wouldn’t look forward to an audience with a sympathetic administrator? Statistically, principals are white people who earn over $100,000 a year, and public school students (and their parents) are not. In such an encounter, the principal is almost certainly suffering from an inner conflict because of his or her relative privilege. The student is likely to get a pep talk, a snack from the principal’s desk drawer, and a pat on the back. Even so, I’m open to restorative justice, diligently applied, as a behavior reform tool.

      That said, temporarily removing a student from class, but not from school, was an (the?) effective way to stop a disruption while it was occurring, and continue the lesson. Unfortunately, the legal mechanism that SFUSD has chosen — blocking the use of 48900(k) willful defiance/disruption as grounds for suspension — prevents teachers from removing students from the classroom (1- or 2-day in-school 48910 suspension) while a disruption is occurring. The policy is silent on how to continue teaching over the disruptive student, who now cannot be removed.

    • Don on Feb 27, 2014 at 1:04 pm02/27/2014 1:04 pm

      • 000

      I agree that children should not be punished for behavior that results from trauma, but I don’t see how that equates to racism. Without a doubt children who exhibit behaviors resulting from abuse should be treated as victims, not punished as perpetrators. I get that, but it doesn’t solve the problem of classroom control. What I don’t get in your comment is how disproportionate suspensions are caused by racism. If you agree that behavioral issues are higher among certain populations due to increased physical and emotional violence, it is apparent that disruptive behavior will be higher, too, as a manifestation of that abuse. But students were suspended for the itself behavior in the form of willful defiance, not for being a member of a race unless you want to make a case that SFUSD administrators have a big racism problem. The caveat is that racism exists and to some extent it may play a part in the suspensions, whether it is overt or a lack of cultural sensitivity. But it’s a long jump to say the five times higher rate of suspension in the African American community is all about racism. If that’s true, SFUSD has a much bigger problem on its hands with its administrators than one that a ban of suspensions can solve.

      In that regard here is an excerpt of Richard Carranza’s introductory speech at the Administrator’s Institute last summer that was posted on Youtube last year:

      “I’ve been a teacher. I know what these kids are like. I wanted to smack one or two up side the head. Absolutely. I get it. But I’m the adult. If I’m putting that kid out of school am I contributing to that kid’s prison life time? I don’t know. I’m struggling with this. As your superintendent, as your fellow educator, as your educating buddy, I’m struggling with this because, right now, I could just say, “administrators, there will be zero suspensions for willful defiance for the rest of this school year.” How do you think that would feel? Five urban superintendents have done that….But because I’ve been a teacher, because I’ve been a principal, you know what? It’s so disrespectful in my humble opinion.”

      So last summer the Superintendent thought that a ban was disrespectful. Apparently, he doesn’t anymore. Smack upside the head?

  18. Chelsea on Feb 27, 2014 at 7:16 am02/27/2014 7:16 am

    • 000

    This is a long overdue shift in the schools! I grew up in SF public schools and as a white student, the racial bias in the schools was painfully obvious. I absolutely got away with behavior that my friends who were Black or Latino did not– and it’s not to say that students shouldn’t be held accountable for their behavior, but suspending students for wearing hats or talking in class is ridiculous and a disservice. Go SFUSD!

  19. Marcia Greene on Feb 27, 2014 at 6:01 am02/27/2014 6:01 am

    • 000

    For many students, “suspension” just means time on the streets. We should be figuring out ways to keep kids IN school, especially “at risk” kids. Suspensions only further marginalize already alienated students and obviously disproportionately target kids of color. Thank goodness our educators have figured this out and are now looking for other ways to keep the peace in our schools. Thank you Coleman for making this happen!!

  20. Mr Keys on Feb 26, 2014 at 10:54 pm02/26/2014 10:54 pm

    • 000

    This is refreshing news! My parents are both educators and from their expertise and my experience teaching at a local high school for two years, I know how important this is. Educators and administrators know there is solid and worrisome evidence that suspensions and other school discipline practices are being administered in racially biased ways. This policy development is long overdue and key for so many students’ success.

  21. Mary Baca on Feb 26, 2014 at 7:48 pm02/26/2014 7:48 pm

    • 000

    I think the issue here is that students of color are more likely to be sent home for infractions that would better be dealt with by having students do school work in detention or by having students take time to think and write about what they could have done differently. If a young person has trouble in school the answer is not to give in and let them leave or give up and kick them out. Overworked teachers end up writing up students because they don’t have the energy and sometimes the cultural competency to deal effectively with the problem. We need to return to smaller class sizes, more teacher aids, more interesting workshop courses and more robust athletic programs.

  22. Ying-sun Ho on Feb 26, 2014 at 6:36 pm02/26/2014 6:36 pm

    • 000

    This is a great development. As an Asian-American student who went to San Francisco public schools, I can attest that the dispensation of ‘discipline’ is racially biased against black and Latino students, excessively punitive, and—most damning—completely ineffective. I am wholly unsurprised that study after study has come to the same conclusion. These punitive disciplinary measures produce poor emotional, behavioral, and academic outcomes.

    I am proud that San Francisco is on the cutting edge of developing new, effective tools for schools and teachers to help our young people develop to their full potential. I only wish they had done this back when I was in school.

  23. Paul Muench on Feb 26, 2014 at 1:00 pm02/26/2014 1:00 pm

    • 000

    Common Core, LCFF, and restorative justice. Everything is changing at once. I assume this is spinning teachers heads as much as parents. If the public school system was an individual it would probably drop dead due to overstress.


    • navigio on Feb 27, 2014 at 6:46 am02/27/2014 6:46 am

      • 000

      Give it a couple years. It probably will do just that.

  24. Been there on Feb 26, 2014 at 12:51 pm02/26/2014 12:51 pm

    • 000

    Gangster rappers do need to be held accountable more often. The first thing I turned to when I got mad or upset was the same people who dont hesitate to brag about how they sold drugs to their neighbors, friends, and family. Kids need to be made to understand that those same people who sold drugs to their own family members care even less about their listeners well being and that’s who they look up to and are inspired by.

  25. Don on Feb 26, 2014 at 12:50 pm02/26/2014 12:50 pm

    • 000

    As a parent with two children in San Francisco schools I’ve been following the issue over the last few months. Proponents of Restorative Justice cite numerous studies that point to significant decreases in disciplinary problems in schools that use the practice. I have no way of vouching for the validity of these studies, but there does seem to be a general consensus among academics as to their efficacy. My question is this: If Restorative Practices are successful, why do we need a ban on suspensions? And more importantly, has student achievement changed as a result of these efforts?

    For legislators, keeping students in school is a priority. Warehousing students to keep them off the streets (suspension ban) and instruction (student achievement) are two very different goals and I’m afraid that in this particular case the ban may be more aimed at achieving the former. Restorative Practices were implemented 2-3 years ago in SFUSD and we should be seeing the positive results of those efforts by now, i.e., suspensions should be down. If they are indeed, why do we need a ban? And if they aren’t, how can we impose a ban without a properly functioning, integrated restorative practice program in place?

    In my judgment school administrators are in the trenches and central office leaders ought to trust their judgment or replace them. Imposing a ban is, in effect, bullying their administrators into complying. If they have to do this what does that say about the same administrators expected to implement Restorative Practices? Once again, do we have a successful Restorative model or not, because if the answer is no, the last thing we should do is impose a suspension ban. That is a desperate move that smells like failure. Or, the ban may only be political correctness in action. As an observer of the SFUSD, I’d have to say it’s both.

    I will relate my own family experience. I have one son attending a high performing mostly Asian school with close to zero discipline/behavioral problems. My other son attends a highly diverse school with an average level of disciplinary issues. His experience is very different than his brothers’. I get almost daily complaints from him about the level of disruption in the class and the inability for the school to stop it. It is charter school that employs restorative practices. While this is anecdotal, it raises an important point. Restorative practices are only as good as those that practice them. And in that regard, how much professional development was funded in conjunction with this ban to ensure the quality of the programs across the school district? …very little that I am aware. And there is no provision in the SFUSD Board resolution to provide it.

  26. Regis on Feb 26, 2014 at 9:18 am02/26/2014 9:18 am

    • 000

    The State also has juvenile crime demographics too. Let’s explore those and ‘educate’ ourselves.

    Males make up the vast majority at 96.5%.

    By Criminal Activity for these lovable unequal youth.

    Assault – 38.3%
    Robbery – 29.1%
    Homicide – 13.5%
    Rape – 3.1%

    84% of the crimes are violent and had a victim.

    By Race.

    Hispanic 59.3% Black 27.1%. Total 86.4% or nearly 90%
    White 9% and Asian 2.8% and other is 1.8%

    By County. LA County 39.6%, followed by every other county at less than 10% each.

  27. Regis on Feb 26, 2014 at 8:48 am02/26/2014 8:48 am

    • 000

    “In San Francisco, data show that African American students make up about 10 percent of the student body but account for more than half of suspensions and expulsions. Latino students also were disproportionately suspended”.


    ‘Statewide, African Americans accounted for 29.4% of the California State Prison Population and Hispanics accounted for 41.3% of that same population, totalling 70.7%.’

    California Department of Corrections:

    “It’s a different system of accountability,” said Laura Faer, an attorney with the public interest law firm Public Counsel (collecting fees from the Taxpayer, in the form of lawsuits against school districts, “public interest” indeed…), which has been advocating for the change in policy. Students often see suspensions as unsupervised vacations (Xbox anyone?), she said, but in many communities students are at risk of becoming victims of violence (what gang are you from?) or part of the juvenile justice system when they are sent home from school (to burglarize houses and who knows what else!). Research has shown that students who are suspended are more likely to drop out of school and end up incarcerated” (No! Say it ain’t so!)

    It must be racist or a result of inequality, can’t be bad behavior, sucky choices and an unwillingness to adopt the formerly common code of civil duties, respect and hard work.

  28. Paul on Feb 26, 2014 at 8:26 am02/26/2014 8:26 am

    • 000

    As goes out-of-school suspension for willful defiance, so goes out-of-class but in-school suspension for willful defiance. What this means is that teachers in San Francisco will not have local authority to remove disruptive students from their classrooms at the time that disruptions occur. Specifically, there will be no local authority to send (“refer” is the usual term) students to the office during class time, for causing disruptions. Only other, more severe grounds enumerated in Ed. Code 48900 will remain. If the behavior falls short of violence, vandalism, drug use, sexual harassment, etc., the student gains an absolute local right to stay in the classroom.

    As you can see, the effects of this policy are chilling. Disruptive students will rule the roost, and other students will suffer. Teachers will have to put up with disruption as long as it lasts, and will only be able to take measures — flimsy, “restorative justice” ones, at that — after the class period or school day has ended.

    As I said when SFUSD introduced the idea in December, there is a conflict between the local policy and state law:

    “[I]t is unclear whether a public school district can limit a teacher’s authority under Ed. Code 48910. Only charter school boards are free to pass suspension/expulsion policies that differ from the ones in the Education Code. When fully implemented, the San Francisco policy will bar a teacher from issuing an in-school suspension on grounds of willful defiance alone, even though Sections 48910 and 48900(k) together allow such suspensions.”


    • Leo on Feb 26, 2014 at 7:35 pm02/26/2014 7:35 pm

      • 000

      A teachers would still be able to remove students from a classroom without suspending them (such as referrals). I think you are missing the large point that suspension don’t work at solving classroom issue and they never have.

      If the goal of Public School is to ensure all students get a quality education how is that possible if they’re not at school.

      Schools need to teach young people how to be accountable for their actions and repair the harm there negative actions cause other people.

      • Paul on Feb 26, 2014 at 11:12 pm02/26/2014 11:12 pm

        • 000

        Leo, you’ve misread your Ed. Code. Disciplinary “referrals” are not defined in law. Removing a student from a classroom for disciplinary reasons is a “suspension”. It can only be done for one of the reasons listed in 48900. If a teacher initiates it, it is an in-school suspension, valid for a maximum of two class days (self-contained classroom) or two periods (departmentalized setting). In that case, the relevant section is 48910, which in turn refers to the reasons listed in 48900.

        Schools/districts with legally savvy administrators reference subsections of 48900 beside the checkboxes on their referral forms.

        Notice that the preamble to the resolution that San Francisco Unified approved last night (the link in the grey box here is outdated; download the February 25, 2014 board meeting agenda packet from the SFUSD Web site) bemoans instructional time lost to referrals. I don’t remember whether the December draft included that issue among its long, vague list of the ills of suspension. In any case, the legal effect of the policy has always been clear, and now the full intent — to quash not only administrator-initiated out-of-school suspensions for willful defiance/disruption, but also teacher-initiated in-school suspensions — is also apparent.

  29. Regis on Feb 26, 2014 at 7:44 am02/26/2014 7:44 am

    • 000

    I think it borders on absolute stupidity. Since the parents (or more commonly, single parent) aren’t instilling civilized values into their children, now we’re leaving it up to progressive idiots for an answer, that will likely fail and fail big. Obviously, there must be a problem with discipline, but now we’ve injected race into it, which always polarizes the issue, because everybody is concerned about ‘inequality’ and how we have to address this, along with Income Inequality, Housing Inequality and on and on.

    Obviously, the solution is to hold to a different standard, the behavior of Blacks and Latino’s than, Whites and Asians. It is a failed model, because it just promotes, that very inequality. The message is, go on and be disruptive, because it’s not your fault. We’ll set up expensive monitoring systems and reports, tracking the evil demographics of punishment for offensive behavior in the class room, we’ll crow about the number of suspensions going down (along with the classroom IQ) and the results will not change a thing.

    Isn’t the purpose of school, to prepare students for the eventual outcome? That unmentioned goal, of actually graduating and getting a job? How does that help the minorities, when they get a ‘free pass’ on their unruly behavior and it becomes a conditioned response? They can act up in the classroom, but how does that translate to the real world?

    Do you think you can be disruptive and socially destructive on the job? I think not. This is just another great example of destructive government policy, that pretends to help, but actually hinders the development of young adults. Stupid is, as Stupid does.

  30. Floyd Thursby on Feb 26, 2014 at 4:12 am02/26/2014 4:12 am

    • 000

    I’m concerned about this. If behavior gets worse, it can cause people with high incomes to leave public schools, move, go private, which really hurts PTAs and the poor kids. It hurts everyone. It hurts the ability to learn. It’s distracting. Willful defiance is wrong. It is a sign of bad character. It will move the line.


    • navigio on Feb 26, 2014 at 6:31 am02/26/2014 6:31 am

      • 000

      I think that may actually be the point Floyd. If a District ends up in a situation where it needs to decide between properly educating kids who can afford an alternative and properly educating kids who can’t, they really have to choose to do the latter, and at the public expense of the former.

      • Lenore Metcalf on Feb 26, 2014 at 11:43 pm02/26/2014 11:43 pm

        • 000

        Wrong Navigio. The whole point of our diversity lottery in San Francisco is that you need a diverse school, it’s not dollars spent, it’s diversity. The schools of black/Latino kids get more money yet still do far worse. The concept is that by being in a classroom with high performing white and Asian kids, they’ll notice, goof off less, study more, and the achievement gap will close. The average Californian white kid studies 5.6 hours a week, Asians 13.8. In SF, whites are probably close to that, but statewide 5.6. If whites go to private schools, there goes the PTA donations and the example to study harder, longer hours, turn off the TV, study Saturdays, do extra test prep books, hire tutors, take Kumon classes, use their local free public library, get free tutors if available, etc. If these students feel afraid and move or go private, it hurts the poor kids who no longer have a chance to learn from them. The successful have good habits and the unsuccessful bad ones. If we integrate our schools with rich and poor, the poor can learn to act more like the rich and become better people, more diligent, obedient to teachers, creative, outspoken, studious, less procrastinating, less argumentative, less lazy. If you let the poor lash out in frustration and intimidate the smart good kids, those with the best grades, and make them uncomfortable, instead of admire their superior work habits and morals, you lose an opportunity to integrate and close the achievement gap.

        Not only that, but the fact is, the victims of such violence are overwhelmingly of the same race as the perpetrators.

        It never helps a race to let them willfully defy or assault another race and get a way with it. It causes people to avoid them. Violence is not the answer.

        • Don on Feb 28, 2014 at 9:22 am02/28/2014 9:22 am

          • 000

          This Lenore is obviously Floyd Thursby in another cyber-incarnation yet again. “She” has the exact same trademark opinions as does he. By the way, Floyd Thursby is a mysterious character from the Maltese Falcon.

        • SC Math Teacher on Mar 10, 2014 at 10:30 am03/10/2014 10:30 am

          • 000


          Can you cite any evidence that the mere presence of high performing white and Asian kids will improve educational outcome ex for black and Latino kids?

        • navigio on Mar 20, 2014 at 5:04 pm03/20/2014 5:04 pm

          • 000

          hmm, you misread my comment. by ‘whole point’ i meant that the foundation for the policy (and many others) is to force those with an alternative out of public education. when you have to look at schools from a budget perspective, then diversity is less ‘efficient’. of course, from the perspective of kids, diversity is more efficient, but we do budget perspectives in this state, not kids’.

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