California rethinks ‘zero tolerance’

California lawmakers are rethinking “zero-tolerance” discipline laws that require schools to suspend or expel students caught selling drugs, brandishing a knife, possessing a firearm or explosive or sexually assaulting someone, reports the Oakland Tribune.

In the 2009-10 school year, 7 percent of K-12 students, 13 percent of those with disabilities and 18 percent of black students were suspended for at least one day in California schools, according to UCLA’s Civil Rights Project.

Assemblymember V. Manuel Perez, D-Coachella, has introduced a bill to end automatic suspension, except for firearm and explosives possession. In addition, principals would not be required to report illegal activities to law enforcement authorities.

. . .  it would require a governing board’s decision to expel a student to be based not only on the act itself, but on the grounds that “other means of correction are not feasible or have repeatedly failed to bring about proper conduct.”

Another bill would remove “defiance” as grounds for out-of-school suspension, but would let schools impose in-school suspension. “Willful defiance” leads to 40 percent of school suspensions, reports AP.

School suspensions were once reserved for serious offenses including fighting and bringing weapons or drugs on campus. But these days they’re just as likely for talking back to a teacher, cursing, walking into class late or even student eye rolling.

More than 40 percent of suspensions in California are for “willful defiance,” or any behavior that disrupts class, and critics say it’s a catchall that needs to be eliminated because it’s overused for trivial offenses, disproportionately used against black and Latino boys and alienates the students who need most to stay in school.

“It’s so broad it’s not useful,” said Marqueece Harris-Dawson, president and chief executive of the nonprofit South Los Angeles Community Coalition. “You can’t quite define what it means, what it doesn’t mean.”

 I’ve never been a fan of zero tolerance and in-school suspension seems like a smart idea, but doesn’t this seem like a rather wide pendulum swing? It’s going to be difficult for a school board to expel a student for sexual assault or brandishing a knife.
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Comments

  1. “California lawmakers are rethinking “zero-tolerance” discipline laws that require schools to suspend or expel students caught selling drugs, brandishing a knife, possessing a firearm or explosive or sexually assaulting someone, reports the Oakland Tribune.”

    Those all seem like really good reasons for automatic detentions. Unless it’s something stupid like calling a sparkler an “explosive” or a squirt gun a “fire arm” or other too broad interpretations.

  2. I also wonder if they are misrepresenting some of the “defiance” behavior issues. I have no doubt that some student has been in trouble for eye-rolling, but I would imagine a large number of the defiance suspensions are for outright defiance that disrupts the education of many other students.

    • Former Teacher says:

      I agree. No one gets suspended for eye-rolling.

      If anything, lots of defiant kids are allowed to stay in class and disrupt the learning of others. And they will continue to be allowed to do so.

  3. local decision that should not need state mandate (although may need state authorization for option to implement)

    much like the hullabaloo over transition kindergarten: a complicated intervention from Sacramento over what is essentially a local decision … is a child ready for 1st grade?

  4. Richard Aubrey says:

    From time to time, the firearms prohibitions have extended to a picture of an uncle in Iraq, carrying a weapon, or a toy cowboy two inches high with a plastic pistol. Sexual assault was a first grad boy kissing a first grade girl.
    Discretion requires discrimination and that requires common sense. Common sense in educrats is not uniformly available. Still, having litigious, butthead parents can make zero tolerance the only bearable system.

    • The claim above, “It’s going to be difficult for a school board to expel a student for sexual assault or brandishing a knife”, reminded me of the girl who was suspended because her mother packed a dinner knife in her lunch to help her peel an orange, an eight-year-old boy suspended for having a butter knife in his lunch, or… a steak knife? Where are the police?

      http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,317202,00.html

  5. Richard Aubrey says:

    Aaron. See, here’s how it works: Johnny Thugg shows up with a samurai sword and threatens fourteen students and a teacher.
    The lawer points to the butter knife and asks how come that kid wasn’t thrown out, too. DISCRIMINATION.
    I exaggerate to make a point. ‘crats can’t afford the butterknfe because something really serious may not be not sufficiently different from the butter knife–when argued by lawyers at $400/hr–to be worth it.

  6. superdestroyer says:

    Have people already forgotten that zero tolerance came about because of the disparity of punishment between blacks and whites. Yet, when taking judgement out of the process, blacks are still being punished more than whites.

    My guess is that in a few years, the move will be back to zero tolerance as public schools become worst places and the middle class puts its foot down again.