Pediatricians should encourage schools to rely on alternatives to expulsions and out-of-school suspensions except in the most severe situations where safety is an issue, the American Academy of Pediatrics said in a policy statement published this week.

In its paper, the Academy is reiterating its position that zero tolerance practices are “of such severity that their application and appropriateness for a developing child require periodic review.” The paper adds that “out-of-school suspensions and expulsions can contribute to the risk of a student dropping out of high school.”

The policy statement is in line with legislation (Assembly Bill 420) proposed by Assemblymember Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, to eliminate the use of “willful defiance” as a reason for expulsions or out-of-school suspensions. That category accounts for more than 40 percent of suspensions statewide and has been used disproportionately to suspend African American and Latino students.

In the last legislative session, Dickinson also attempted to restrict the use of willful defiance, but his bill was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown, who said such decisions should be made by local school districts.

Going deeper

“Out-of-School Suspension and Expulsion,” Pediatrics, Feb. 25, 2013

“Second effort to limit ‘willful defiance’ as cause to expel and suspend,” EdSource, Feb. 18, 2013

Assembly Bill 420


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