You are Invited to a Community Conversation to Fix School Discipline

Willful Invite V2


Featuring the World Premiere of a New Play: 


Cornerstone Theater Company and The California Endowment, in partnership with The Black Parallel School Board, will bring the community, policy makers, and the media together to dramatize personal stories of school discipline and to discuss alternatives to harsh practices on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at the State Capitol in Sacramento. This bridge building event, Talk it Out: A Community Conversation to Fix School Discipline, will feature a dramatic reading of a new play, Willful, performed by students, community members and professional actors, with a focus on the current debate over the excessive use of “willful defiance” in school suspensions and expulsions.

The event is sponsored by the office of Roger Dickinson, D, Sacramento and author of AB 420, a new bill that would restrict the ill-defined and overused “willful defiance” rationale for harsh disciplinary measures. Dickinson will be on hand to introduce the event. The 30-45 minute event starts at 10:30am and guests will be invited to participate in a facilitated dialogue.

Talk it Out is free, open to the public, and will take place at the State Capitol (1315 10th St., Room 126, Sacramento, CA 95814). More information can be found on Cornerstone Theater Company’s website and on Facebook.

“Kids who have been suspended or expelled are five times more likely to drop out and 11 times more likely to turn to crime,” said Dickinson, event sponsor and author of AB 420. “We must fix California’s broken school discipline practices and address behavioral issues with alternative means of correction so we can keep young people in school, on track to graduate, and out of the criminal justice system. Programs like Talk it Out provide exactly the sort of platform we need to bring relevant parties to the table and move toward solutions.”

About Talk It Out:

Talk it Out: A Community Conversation to Fix School Discipline is an ongoing program, executed in cities across California, that strives to raise awareness about the use of harsh school discipline on a local and statewide scale. The overall program goal is to personalize the discussion for people on all sides of the issues and to communicate, in a positive way, the alternatives to questionable practices.

The California Endowment, a private, statewide health foundation that seeks to address the health consequences from the overuse of suspension, expulsion, and zero-tolerance polices, supports the program. Each local event begins with a theater performance, based on real stories from area residents, in order to start a dialogue in communities across California. Participants are given a voice to offer first-hand perspectives on their experience. Playwright Julie Marie Myatt developed the new play, Willful, based on personal accounts from this year’s Sacramento participants. This is the second year in a row that Talk it Out is engaging the Sacramento community in a dialogue on school justice. Last year’s event was held at the State Capitol on June 27, 2012.

Hundreds of thousands of California students are being expelled and suspended from school every year for non-violent misconduct. Harsh discipline is overused at alarming rates in school districts throughout the state as well as nationally. In Sacramento, where the June Talk it Out event will be staged, the situation is particularly extreme across the black student population. Journalist Phillip Reese recently reported in The Sacramento Bee that black students were suspended at disproportional rates in Sacramento County once again in 2012. According to the article (which draws on California Department of Education data), “Roughly 20 percent of the county’s black students were suspended last year, higher than the statewide rate of 15 percent. By comparison, 8 percent of the county’s Hispanics, 7 percent of whites and 3 percent of Asians were suspended.”

Severe disciplinary policies and practices are pushing our schoolchildren, especially our most at-risk children, out of classrooms and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems, according to the ACLU. The “school-to-prison pipeline” reflects the prioritization of incarceration over education. Suspended and expelled children are often left unsupervised and without constructive activities. They easily fall behind in their coursework, leading to a greater likelihood of disengagement and dropouts. Read more…

About AB 420

Legislation authored by Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, AB 420 is a new bill that would restrict the use of the ill-defined “willful defiance” rationale to suspend and expel students. The bill encourages schools to instead prioritize and use alternative means of correction. Even though current law sites 23 other reasons for suspensions and expulsions, “willful defiance” is frequently used as a catch-all, accounting for 53% of all school suspensions (Source: California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System, 2013).

AB 420 proposes curtailing the use of “willful defiance” so that K-5th grade students could not be suspended for it, and middle school and high school students could only be suspended for a third offense (and only after alternative means of discipline have been tried the first two incidents). AB 420 is part of a national trend that acknowledges the damage zero that tolerance policies inflict on our youth, urging a move towards alternative discipline practices. Supporters of the bill note that a disproportionate number of African-Americans are suspended for “willful defiance.”

Watch last year’s Talk it Out: A Community Conversation to Fix School Discipline, 2012

About Cornerstone Theater Company

Cornerstone Theater Company is a multiethnic, ensemble-based theater company. For 27 years, the organization has produced socially relevant and thought-provoking plays that bring together the artistry of professional and community collaborators to build bridges between and within diverse communities. Cornerstone offers people of all ages, backgrounds and cultures the opportunity to tell their stories through theater. Through its art-making, the organization has worked in hundreds of communities – reaching tens of thousands of individuals, developing and producing more than 80 original plays, and training over 2000 students in its unique methodology. Works are based on the conviction that aesthetic practice is social justice, artistic expression is civic engagement, and that access to a creative forum is an essential part of the wellness and health of every individual and community. For information, please visit Cornerstone’s website.

About The California Endowment

The California Endowment, a private, statewide health foundation, was established in 1996 to expand access to affordable, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities, and to promote fundamental improvements in the health status of all Californians. The Endowment challenges the conventional wisdom that medical settings and individual choices are solely responsible for people’s health. The Endowment believes that health happens in neighborhoods, schools, and with prevention.

The Endowment hopes to move school discipline policy and practice across California away from reliance on punishment and toward positive approaches that prevent classroom disruption and address the underlying causes of misbehavior. For more information, visit The Endowment’s website.

About The Black Parallel School Board

The Black Parallel School Board (BPSB) is a community organization developed to work parallel to the Sacramento City Unified District Board of Education. Its major responsibility is to support the educational growth and achievement of black students. The BPSB believes that if it can improve the educational circumstances of Black students, who are the lowest performing student group in California, it can make a difference ultimately for all students. BPSB provides support services and workshops for parents interested in techniques to make learning more successful. BPSB is collaborating with Cornerstone to engage Sacramento student participants for the June Talk it Out project. For more information, visit BPSB’s website.

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