Fix School Discipline Toolkit for Educators - Page 5

WHY WE MUST REFORM SCHOOL DISCIPLINE IN CALIFORNIA The Big Picture: One of the most important functions of public education is to lay the foundation for future opportunity and educational success for all students. However, California’s current harsh discipline policies and practices operate in the opposite way. Instead of correcting students’ behavior and making communities and schools safer the quick-push-out methods—out-of-school suspension and expulsion— deprive students of the chance to receive the help and education they need, making it far more likely that they will enter the criminal justice system, drop out of school, and place their future options in jeopardy. How do harsh and zero-tolerance discipline methods work in California schools? Currently, California schools issue more suspensions than diplomas each year.3 During the 2013-14 school year, California schools issued more than 392,000 out-of-school suspensions,4 and more than 297,000 students were suspended out-of-school at least one time.5 Contrary to common perceptions, a significant number of California’s suspensions are unrelated to school safety but instead are for minor, vaguely defined behavior infractions.6 Willful defiance/ 3 California Department of Education DataQuest, available at http:// (2012) [hereafter, CDE DataQuest]. 4 Id. 5 Losen, D., Martinez, T., & Gillespie, J. (2012), Suspended Education in California, The Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the Civil Rights Project. 6 Skiba, R.J. (2000), Zero Tolerance, Zero Evidence: An Analysis of School Disciplinary Practice. disruption is identified as the most “severe”grounds for 29% of all suspensions and 4% of all expulsions in 2013-14. 7t Suspensions for “willful defiance” can include anything from chewing gum in class, to talking back, or wearing the wrong clothes. As a former Vice Principal in Los Angeles told the Associated Press when explaining why he took suspension off the quick-trigger menu, “willful defiance” is the big umbrella --- anything can fit in that category. Do suspensions and expulsions change and improve student behavior? There is “no research base to support frequent suspension or expulsion in response to non-violent and mundane forms of adolescent misbehavior; frequent suspension and expulsion are associated with negative outcomes; and better alternatives are available.”8 In fact, these strategies often have the opposite effect of exacerbating the problem, sending the student on an unsupervised leave from school and further alienating him or her from the school environment.9 Which students are suspended and expelled in California? In California, students of color are suspended at disproportionately higher rates than white students. 7 CDE Dataquest (2013) 8 Losen, D.J. (2011), Discipline Policies, Successful Schools and Racial Justice. 9 American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on School Health. (2003), Policy Statement: Out-of-school suspension and expulsion, 112 (5), 12061209. 3