California bill would extend ban on unnecessary suspensions
- As California's ban on "willful defiance" suspensions in early grades nears its end on July 1, SB 607, sponsored by state Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) is being considered a means to permanently bar suspensions for behavior deemed "defiant" or "disruptive," EdSource reports.
- Such suspensions have come under fire in recent years for their subjectivity and the disproportionate rate at which they impact students of color.
- The bill would extend the current ban beyond grade 3 up to high school. A previous effort in 2012 (AB 2242) was opposed by organizations representing teachers and administrators before being vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown, who cited a commitment to "local control."
In the push to curb unnecessary suspensions, California has been at the forefront. A growing body of research has tied such "zero-tolerance" disciplinary approaches to the "school-to-prison pipeline," which has disproportionately impacted students of color and those in special education. Essentially, when students are suspended (and sometimes even arrested) for minor, nonviolent infractions like disrupting class, it creates a scenario in which those students end up unable to catch up on lost class time.
With such incidents happening as early as preschool in some cases, students can develop early perceptions of themselves as "bad" students. And in the instances where students are arrested and funneled into the juvenile justice system, that factor combined with the difficulty in making up for lost class time can breed recidivism until they eventually end up in the adult justice system.
Alternative approaches have included "restorative justice" practices in which educators help students address what's at the root of their problems in school, sometimes with the help of their peers. This additionally feeds into social-emotional learning efforts around empathy and compassion. Other approaches have also included programs that offer additional disciplinary support to teachers, giving them a "bounce buddy" who they can send a repetitively disruptive student to during the school day.
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