Board Member Garcia, LAUSD Administrators Join White House Conference on Student Discipline

LOS ANGELES (July 22, 2015) - Having tackled student discipline in the Los Angeles Unified School District, Board Member Mónica García talked about the issue today at the White House as part of a national convening organized by the Obama Administration.

Board Member García, Assistant Superintendent Earl Perkins and an administrator, Jose Huerta, were invited to participate in “Rethink Discipline,” a daylong discussion on ways to reduce disciplinary incidents and foster safe and supportive school environments.
 
They were joined by Garfield High School teacher Antonio Márquez and Jasmin Malinao, a project management administrator for the District. Hundreds of other educational leaders from around the country attended the seminar, along with youth advocates, researchers, and state and community officials.
 
In 2013, Ms. García authored the School Climate Bill of Rights, a resolution that ended “willful defiance” suspensions in L.A. Unified and led to the development of restorative justice programs. A year later, the California Legislature passed a law limiting “willful defiance” suspensions, saying the practice was used disproportionately to discipline minority students statewide.

“School discipline policies of the past were a pathway to poverty, a pipeline to prison, and sometimes a death sentence,” Board Member García said. “At LAUSD, our goal is to strengthen the relationships that increase academic achievement and lead to successful college and career-ready graduates. We are unafraid of implementing policies that provide students the schools our students and families deserve.”

Board Member García praised the District’s School Police Department for its truancy-diversion program, as well as efforts by the local criminal justice system to offer student violators positive behavior practices as an alternative to punishment.

The number of instructional days lost to suspensions has plummeted since the District changed its approach to student discipline. From 2007-08, the number of days declined by more than 88 percent, with an additional 59 percent drop by April 2015.

“We believe education is a civil right and we know that our youth are capable of reading, writing, thinking, and believing,” said Board Member Garcỉa, who chairs the Board’s Successful School Climate: Progressive Discipline Safety Committee. “We accept that education is not a commodity for some, but our responsibility to all of our children.”

Márquez said that building positive relationships with students is an essential part of the classroom experience. “The most important factor in instilling student achievement is creating a genuine connection with them,” he said.

Huerta, operations administrator for Local District East, said he hopes that educational leaders will build on the ideas and recommendations shared at the conference. “It’s a humbling experience to be at the White House, talking and learning about changing students’ lives with experts leading this work,” Huerta said. “There are over 200 communications and education leaders, scholars and policy influencers who are sharing, learning and challenging our nation to commit to meeting the needs of our youth and strengthening our country.”

The “Rethink Discipline” conference is part of an ongoing effort by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice to develop and support disciplinary practices that foster safe and productive learning environments that help keep students in school.

“Creating and sustaining safe, supportive schools is absolutely essential to ensuring students can engage in the rich learning experiences they need for success in college, work and life,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan. “That’s why rethinking school discipline is critical to boosting student achievement and improving school outcomes.”

 
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Photo (left to right):
Earl Perkins, assistant superintendent
Jasmin Malinao, project management administrator
Jose Huerta, operations administrator for Local District East
Board Member Mónica Garcỉa
Antonio Márquez, Garfield High School teacher