Bills to Fix School Discipline Move Ahead in Legislature

California legislators have taken a major step toward fixing harsh school discipline rules. On April 11, Education committees in the state Assembly and Senate passed seven separate bills that address some of the most serious problems.

Student hands upThey heard powerful testimony from students, parents, educators, law enforcement, academics, and youth advocates about the need to change rules that led to suspension of more than 400,000 California students in 2009-2010, and more than 750,000 suspensions overall.

A Los Angeles student who dropped out of school after she wound up in the juvenile justice system spoke out for AB 2241, which will help students get back into school. We need to “find a better way to get us back into school” after juvenile hall, she said.

Fourth grade teacher and parent Michelle Harvey told legislators how her son “became a person who made mistake after mistake” under his school’s zero-tolerance rules. Now at a new school, his grades and behavior have turned around. All kids need “a chance at redemption,” she said. “I’ve seen it happen.”

Assemblymember Roger Dickinson said there were 24 reasons in state law why students could be suspended, but just 1 is responsible for more than 40% of all suspensions. It’s called “willful defiance,” and Dickinson said that under CA law a student can be suspended for “not bringing in homework, not wearing right kind of clothes.”

Public Counsel’s Education Rights Director Laura Faer spoke out for AB 2145, which requires disaggregated data to on school discipline to be published on the state website in order to help policymakers, community members, parents and school leaders to “determine what works and does not work” on school discipline.

She was joined by youth advocates from groups including the Children’s Defense Fund, Stanford Law School Youth and Education Law Project, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, Oakland Community Organization, ACLU, Community Rights Campaign, Youth Justice Coalition and California Rural Legal Assistance.

Afterward Faer told KPCC radio in Los Angeles that “we’re not condoning any of these behaviors, what we’re saying is we have better strategies to hold students accountable, and what we know does not work is sending them home to an unsupervised vacation.”

Click here to read more about the bills.

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