The California Legislature Friday voted to expand the state’s ban on so-called “disruption and defiance” suspensions through the 8th grade. However, the bill approved by lawmakers includes caveats and there’s no guarantee that it will get Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature.

Originally, SB 607, authored by Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, called for the state’s current suspension ban, which covers grades K-3, to be expanded to include all grades through high school.

But when it was introduced in February it faced pushback from associations representing school administrators, school board members and charter school operators. And most importantly, Brown, who vetoed a K-12 ban in 2012, gave no indication that he would support an extension of the current ban, which he signed into law in 2014.

Brown’s position in the past has been that a full state-mandated ban runs contrary to the idea of local control, which is the cornerstone of his education policy. His office has refused to comment on Skinner’s bill.

The version passed by lawmakers Friday makes the ban permanent in grades K-5 as of July 1, 2019, but includes a sunset provision for grades 6-8. This means if Brown signs the bill, the ban in those grades would expire on July 1, 2023 unless the Legislature and governor act before then to make it permanent.

Even with the K-3 ban, suspensions for disruption and defiance account for the vast majority of suspensions in California schools and are disproportionately meted out to students of color and those with disabilities. Statewide across all grades, African-American and Latino boys received more than half of these suspensions during the 2016-17 school year despite making up only 30.7 percent of all students, according to an analysis of state data by the ACLU of Southern California.

“We subject children of color to these totally preventable suspensions instead of keeping them in school and providing the supports they need,” said Angelica Salazar, director of education equity for Children’s Defense Fund, California. “Many schools are showing that positive approaches are more effective in addressing minor misbehaviors.”

It was data showing the stark racial disparities that led the Association of California School Administrators, which has an influential voice in Sacramento, to switch from opposing the bill to supporting it.

“This wasn’t an easy decision for ACSA, but our folks are really concerned with the disparities in terms of how willful defiance suspensions are applied,” said Iván Carrillo, a legislative advocate for the school administrators’ association. “Our membership takes a big issue with that and we want to continue to utilize other creative, research-based tools to deal with student behavior while at the same time protecting the classroom.”

A K-8 ban also has the support of the California School Boards Association. The California Charter Schools Association, which also opposed the bill when it called for a K-12 ban, is now taking a “neutral” position. And the California Teachers Association, the state’s largest teacher’s union, is also neutral on the bill.

There is ample evidence that all the attention given to the issue, even though the current ban covers only early grades, has contributed to a dramatic drop in these suspensions across all grades in recent years.

Between the 2011-12 and 2016-17 school years, suspensions of all types dropped by 46 percent statewide, with disruption and defiance suspensions dropping by 79 percent for African-American students, according to state data released late last year. A handful of districts, including Los Angeles Unified and Oakland Unified, have instituted their own K-12 bans.

This year’s state budget provides more resources for alternatives to suspensions and other traditional punishments. It includes a $15 million grant that will fund a pilot program, overseen by the departments of education in Orange and Butte counties, that will develop a training curriculum based on multi-tiered systems of support , an approach to learning and behavioral problems in which students progress through a range of interventions depending on their need levels.

The program will be administered by UCLA’s Center for the Transformation of Schools and emphasize restorative justice, social emotional learning and other alternatives that prioritize mediation and building healthy relationships over traditional punishments.

Skinner and the advocates are hoping that these developments will help make her bill more palatable to Brown.

“All the stakeholders are either supportive or neutral, which is great,” Skinner said. “Now the question is does it meets the governor’s comfortability, which it should. The whole objective is to give kids the best chance at being successful — and kicking them out of school, even if it’s just for a few days, is not a recipe for success.”

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  1. A concerned educator and parent 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    The biggest flaw in this situation is they are trying to combat the perceived discrimination with more discrimination. The numbers do reflect a disproportional amount of suspensions and referrals in those specific groups, and we must be willing to consider that this is due in part to embedded prejudices in our society. We also must be willing to look at the actual incidents and examine whether the child being disciplined was actually being defiant. We … Read More

    The biggest flaw in this situation is they are trying to combat the perceived discrimination with more discrimination. The numbers do reflect a disproportional amount of suspensions and referrals in those specific groups, and we must be willing to consider that this is due in part to embedded prejudices in our society. We also must be willing to look at the actual incidents and examine whether the child being disciplined was actually being defiant. We can’t overlook or turn a blind eye to misbehavior simply because a student fits in a category we are trying to reduce our disciplinary numbers in, and more often than not that is what is happening in our schools, at least that is what I have seen happening in mine.

    Students that meet these criteria for the demographics that we are trying to show improvement in are being allowed to behave deplorably with no real consequences, and the behaviors escalate and get more extreme as the school year progresses. I’ve seen students allowed to curse, assault other students, harass other students, and because they happen to belong in one of the specific categories that are being scrutinized. They are not being held accountable the same way another student would. This is discrimination. There is no doubt that these students are being allowed to play by a different set of rules because of no other factor than their specific demographic qualities.

    We must not forget that the function of school in the greater society is to prepare people to be good citizens, citizens that contribute to the communities they live in, and in this respect we are failing because we are not preparing them to follow simple rules. When an authority figure asks you to do something simple and reasonable in the real world (a police officer asks for your license, or asks you to stop and show your hands, or a judge tells you to be silent in their courtroom), they don’t care what demographic you belong to. They will not give you an easier time if you are a minority, or give you extra chances because of the neighborhood you grew up in.

    Passing more restrictive rules that prevent teachers and administrators from having the tools to discipline students when they are purposely refusing to comply with the simple and reasonable instructions of the authority figures on our campuses will not fix the disproportionate suspensions and referrals. What it will do is create an environment on campuses where students don’t feel they need to be compliant with authority figures. This is already a growing problem, and it will only become worse if we allow this to pass.

    The real world has rules and consequences, so our campuses need to as well.
    I hope that some of our legislators see this and think about the dangers of teaching our youth that defiance of authority has no consequence. There are definitely times when we must stand up against authority in our lives. Our country is founded on that ideal, but it isn’t when your teacher asks you to get out your pencil and try to do your work.

  2. George Hung 8 months ago8 months ago

    This will hurt an individual school’s ability to effectively discipline students, The fact is that black boys misbehave at a higher rate than all other groups. We understand why it happens but without discipline at home, teachers have limited options. If a black boy is disrupting an entire class and especially his male counterparts, he has to be taught a lesson or he will believe that he can continue to misbehave without severe repercussions. Eliminating … Read More

    This will hurt an individual school’s ability to effectively discipline students, The fact is that black boys misbehave at a higher rate than all other groups. We understand why it happens but without discipline at home, teachers have limited options. If a black boy is disrupting an entire class and especially his male counterparts, he has to be taught a lesson or he will believe that he can continue to misbehave without severe repercussions. Eliminating suspensions will cripple a school’s ability to discipline students and it will lead to further disuption within the classroom. The question we should ask isn’t, “What are black parents doing wrong?” The questions we should ask are “Why are Asian students the least likely to misbehave and get suspended?” and “What are Asian parents doing right?” and from these answers, black parents may begin to use similar strategies at home.

  3. Kellee Wheatley 8 months ago8 months ago

    As a trustee of a small rural school district, I strongly believe that legislation of this sort interferes with our local ability to decide what might work best for our students. Guidelines, strategies and suggestions from the state would be welcomed but the decision to suspend, the policies upon which these decisions are made and the implementation of said policies should remain a responsibility of local school boards which base their decisions on the needs of their constituents.

  4. James P. Scanlan 9 months ago9 months ago

    Legislation of this nature is commonly premised on the belief that generally reducing suspensions will tend to reduce (a) the ratio of the black suspension rate to the white suspension rate and (b) the proportion blacks make up of suspended students. In fact, exactly the opposite is the case. See reference 1. It is possible that racial disproportionality in suspensions for defiance is so different from other racial disproportionality in discipline that elimination … Read More

    Legislation of this nature is commonly premised on the belief that generally reducing suspensions will tend to reduce (a) the ratio of the black suspension rate to the white suspension rate and (b) the proportion blacks make up of suspended students. In fact, exactly the opposite is the case. See reference 1. It is possible that racial disproportionality in suspensions for defiance is so different from other racial disproportionality in discipline that elimination of such suspension will not in fact increase (a) and (b). But it is hard to pass sound legislation while suffering from beliefs about effects of policies of measures of disparity that are the opposite of reality.
    1. Letter to Maryland State Department of Education (June 26, 2018) http://jpscanlan.com/images/Letter_to_Maryland_State_Department_of_Education_June_26,_2018_.pdf

  5. Douglas Ross 9 months ago9 months ago

    Have they asked the rank and file if they feel more or less secure in this environment?Has there been any increase in disciplinary issues or claims filed by employees or other students for injuries due to these rolled back disciplinary options?

  6. Bill Conrad 9 months ago9 months ago

    Well somebody had to pull the plug on the malpractice of the use of suspensions in education as district and school leaders are incapable of recognizing and rejecting failed educational practices. School district and school leaders have gotten away with the use of a practice that long ago should have been added to the trash heap of failed educational ideas. Amateurs suspend students. Professionals address the discipline needs of students in ways that … Read More

    Well somebody had to pull the plug on the malpractice of the use of suspensions in education as district and school leaders are incapable of recognizing and rejecting failed educational practices. School district and school leaders have gotten away with the use of a practice that long ago should have been added to the trash heap of failed educational ideas. Amateurs suspend students. Professionals address the discipline needs of students in ways that can affirm and help them grow. Maybe in a couple more generations, education will advance to a profession rather than a very flawed craft that it currently is!

    Replies

    • Believe 8 months ago8 months ago

      Are you a teacher? Yeah didn’t think so. Your opinion is useless. How about we worry about the majority that WANT to learn and stop destroying everything because the minority voices claim everything is unfair. Bet you are the a amateur! Speak when you have real knowledge not baseless claims.