Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Support for AB 420 (Dickinson) – Disruption and Defiance: Reducing Grounds for Harsh Discipline National Lawyers Guild of Sacramento

National Lawyers Guild of Sacramento
April 16, 2013
The Honorable Joan Buchanan
Chair, Assembly Education Committee State Capitol
Sacramento, CA 95814
Fax: (916) 319-2187

RE: Support for AB 420 (Dickinson) – Disruption and Defiance: Reducing Grounds for Harsh Discipline
Dear Assemblymember Buchanan, and Committee:
The National Lawyers Guild of Sacramento supports the passage of Assembly Bill 420, which would limit the use of suspension and expulsion for acts of disruption and defiance. We support elements of the measure, including encouraging the use of other means of correction as the preferred remedy for such acts by only allowing high school students to be suspended on these grounds, only permitting such suspensions after multiple offenses, and removing the ability to expel students for such acts.
We understand current law provides that students can be suspended or recommended for expulsion from a school district if they have “disrupted school activities or otherwise willfully defied the valid authority” of school personnel. According to the bill's proponents, it is estimated that "this category was identified as the most severe grounds for 42 percent of all suspensions—more than any other grounds for suspension—and between 8-12 percent of all expulsions in California in 2010-11.
Also, according to proponents: "Under this subjective category, students can be suspended or expelled from the school district and denied valuable learning time for anything from failing to turn in homework, not paying attention, refusing to follow directions, or swearing in class – and even for just one isolated incident. More than two decades of research has confirmed that out-of-school suspensions do not work. They do not improve student behavior and, in fact, often exacerbate the problem, as the children who are disciplined for these offenses often come from homes with the least supervision and have themselves experienced violence and other trauma that they are struggling to address without support. The research is clear that students who are subjected to out-of-school discipline are far more likely than their peers to drop out of school and enter the juvenile delinquency system, at great cost to the state. In contrast, students whose problem behaviors are addressed proactively with research-based interventions, like restorative justice and positive behavior interventions and supports, and who are not just kicked out without help, stay in school and get back on track. Research reveals that students of color are disproportionately suspended and expelled for low level, subjective offenses like willful defiance, and this leads these students to have disproportionately worse educational outcomes than other student groups. In a 2012 data report issued by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, African-American students in California were more than three times as likely to be suspended as white students."
For this and other reasons of public interest – including that measures like this will help our children and society in the long run – the National Lawyers Guild urges an 'aye' vote on AB420.
National Lawyers Guild of Sacramento
cc: Assemblymember Roger Dickinson (Fax: (916) 319 – 2107)