Keeping Students in School by Reducing Suspensions

LOS ANGELES (June 13, 2017) - The Board of Education voted unanimously today to support Senate Bill 607, which would eliminate “willful defiance” as justification for suspension and expulsion of students in grades K-12. If approved by the state legislature, the prohibition would be permanent for elementary school students and would apply to middle and high school students until July 1, 2028.

“We salute the student leadership that has led the Student Climate Bill of Rights effort in L.A. and now urges the state to pass SB 607,” said Board Member Mónica García. “We welcome Governor Brown and state leadership to walk our school campuses and meet our school leadership that have changed suspension rates and increased graduation rates.”

In 2013, L.A. Unified became the first school district in California to ban suspensions for “willful defiance,” and to use alternative disciplinary methods instead.

“Because disruption and defiance are not defined in the state Education Code, this punishment is uneven and often unfair,” said Board Vice President Dr. George J. McKenna III, who co-sponsored the resolution. “A student is kicked out at one school for behavior that would be addressed and corrected at another school. I am proud that Los Angeles has set the example for other districts in the state to model.”

Board Member Dr. Ref Rodriguez, also a co-sponsor, said, “Research shows that students who have been suspended are more likely to drop out of school.” He added, “I am proud to support the ‘Keep Kids in School Act’ which acknowledges that suspensions can be counterintuitive to a child’s education, and that there are alternatives to discipline that better support students and teachers.” 

The resolution also attracted strong community support.

"Kicking kids out of school for small stuff doesn't address the problem and it definitely doesn't help us succeed," Gabriel Vidal, of InnerCity Struggle, said. "That's why we need to expand the willful defiance ban statewide." 

Since the passage of the board resolution in 2013, L.A. Unified has become a nationally recognized leader in restorative justice, which requires students to accept responsibility for misbehavior and focuses on rehabilitation through reconciliation with the victim and the school community.

"Restorative justice works because it forces everyone in a school community to work together before and after something happens to harm one or more of its members," Brandon Najera, a student at Woodrow Wilson Senior High School who also works with InnerCity Struggle, said. "That's why I advocate for alternatives to suspension."

"Suspensions have dropped over 80 percent since L.A. Unified began moving away from punitive school discipline policies to more restorative practices. Graduation rates have also been improving," John Linares, a student at Manual Arts High School, said. “We need to keep moving in that direction – not just in Los Angeles, but all over California"

The School Board resolution directs the Superintendent to communicate support for the bill, as well as monitoring the District’s progress in reducing suspensions and keeping students in school.


Contact: Shannon Haber (213) 241-6766




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