An organization of California law enforcement officials has released a study its members hope will prompt Gov. Jerry Brown to sign legislation that will edge the state toward less punitive school discipline policies.

“If kids fail in the school environment, they end up being clients in the criminal justice system,” said Nevada County Sheriff Keith Royal, president of the California State Sheriffs’ Association, at a press conference on Tuesday..

Classmates not Cellmates, the report by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids California,  points out the differences in discipline policies among districts of more than 10,000 students with similar student populations. For example, Sacramento Unified School District’s suspension rate of 16 suspensions per 100 students was more than three times higher than Los Angeles Unified’s five suspensions per 100 students.

More than half of the 700,000 annual suspensions statewide are for nonviolent and nondrug-related offenses, such as being distracting or disruptive, according to the report. African American and Latino students are more likely to be suspended for such behavior than Asian or white students.

“What used to mean a trip to the principal’s office is now grounds for out-of-school suspension or even expulsion, said Chief Art de Werk of the Ceres Police Department.

The anti-crime organization, which consists of more than 5,000 police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors, and violence survivors, is a sponsor of Senate Bill 1235. Introduced by Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), it would support developing alternative approaches, using data to find the best evidence-based alternatives to suspensions and expulsions and convening regional forums for school leadership teams from schools with with a suspension rate of 25 percent or higher overall or for one or more student subgroups.

Alternative policies often pay for themselves, according to the report. De Werk pointed to Pioneer High School in Woodland Joint Unified School District in Yolo County, which saved nearly $100,000 a year when it shifted to more positive discipline policies because the district was able to get more funds based on average daily attendance (ADA) by keeping students in school.

 

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