School District Puts New School Discipline Law to the Test — Early

Students in foster care are part of a special program at Elk Grove Unified School District. (Photo courtesy of Michael Jones / Ed Source)

A brand new law to help reduce suspensions and expulsions of foster youth goes into effect in January. But Elk Grove Unified, located in Sacramento County, has applied the principles of AB 1909 early and is already seeing positive results.

Foster youth are being suspended 69% less often in 2010-2011 compared to 2009-2010, EdSource reports.

What changed? Elk Grove now notifies social workers when a foster child enters one of their schools, and contacts the child’s attorney if he or she faces a possible expulsion hearing.

“Just one simple little thing that we changed, yet it became such a positive turnaround to help youth,” said Kim Parker, program specialist/educational liaison for Foster Youth Services for Elk Grove Unified.

That’s what AB 1909 will require.

Foster children generally lack a parent to step in for them if they get into trouble. And because they often move from home to home, they depend on their social worker and court-appointed attorney to be their advocates at school.

The Children’s Law Center of California served as an ally, with lawyers and educational liaisons collaborating to ensure improved outcome for these students.

Another key leader in the area is Elk Grove educator Michael Jones, who created an advisory class specifically for foster youth where kids “could walk into the room and not be judged because they were all in the same situation.”

Students such as Carey Sommer, now 20, says that he can “definitely advocate for Mike’s program and the involvement of social workers and lawyers.”

When educators, students, lawyers, social workers, and other community members are involved, only success can follow.

Read more at EdSource.org.

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