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    California school suspension ban puts safety of kids last



    By Michael Hernandez 

    California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) signed a school suspension ban (Senate Bill 419) this week that puts the safety of kids last; not the needs of kids first—as State Senator Nancy Skinner (D, 9th District East Bay—a global warming and income equality advocate), author of the bill believes.  SB 419 was cosponsored by the Brothers, Sons, Selves Coalition, part of the Alliance for Boys and Men of  Color which helped to implement the suspension ban for willful defiance for all grades in Los Angeles Unified School District.

    Currently, schools cannot suspend students in kindergarten through grade three for willful defiance.   The new legislation permanently bans suspensions for disruptive students in grades four and five (all elementary students) and prohibits suspensions for willful defiance for five years in grades six through eight (middle school years effective July 1, 2020). 

    This new legislation which must be implemented in both public and charter schools is flawed for several reasons:

    1. Discipline legislated by non-educators takes the control of schools away from local communities.
    2. This approach to “no discipline” in schools has never worked in the raising of children.
    3. This “no discipline” policy puts all other students at risk from those students who have no consequences for their behavior.

    Civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, a proponent of this legislation” says she strongly believes that SB 419 “will bring justice to California youth by eliminating suspensions for disruption and defiance, putting an end to discriminatory discipline policies and instituting restorative justice practices.”

    Breitbart News reporter Dr. Susan Berry writes (Sept. 11)  that the new law is based on controversial impact statistics that “find black and other minority students are disproportionately suspended for disruptive behavior.”

    According to Dr. Berry, attorney Peter Kirsanow, a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and chair of the board of directors of the Center for New Black Leadership that the outcome of the California policy is “depressingly predictable.”

    “Just as we’ve seen in every other school district that has reduced or banned student suspensions and expulsion in order to eliminate racial disparities in school discipline; violence and chaos in those school will increase—substantially.   The victims of such violence and chaos will be other minority students whose learning environment will be disrupted by the presence of students who should’ve been disciplined.”  Kirsanow emphasized that without suspensions and expulsions acting as deterrents, “the behavior of disruptive students will get worse.”

    The California Department of Education justifies the new legislation by reporting that Black students made up just 5.6 percent of the total enrollment for the academic year 2017-18, yet accounted for 15.6 percent of total suspensions for willful defiance.  By contrast, white students made up 23.2 percent of total enrollment and accounted for 20.2 percent of suspensions for willful defiance.

    The California Department of Education also reports that the suspensions for willful defiance declined by 30,000 just one year after the law took effect with fewer than 51,000 suspended for willful defiance out of a total of 363,406 suspensions.

    Become aware of the reported number of students suspended in California schools.   The state’s celebration of reduced suspensions is misplaced.   Does this mean that behavior in schools has improved?  Does this mean that students are safer?

    Dr. Berry (reported for Breitbart News on Sept. 4) that Gail Herot, a law professor at the University of San Diego and a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, wrote in April 2018 at the National Review that quoting racial disparities to support banning suspensions for disruptive conduct is “highly misleading.”

    “The major reason for the disparity is clear, and it isn’t bias.  As painful as it may be to admit, African-American students, on average, misbehave more than their white counterparts.  Teachers (including African-American teachers) aren’t making this up, and it isn’t doing African-American students any favors to suggest otherwise.”

    Heriot observed that several studies, including a National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) report, shows black students “self-report being in physical fights on school property at a rate more than twice that of white students.”  Heriot points to the research that shows children from fatherless households and those from impoverished backgrounds are more likely to be disruptive than other students. (Editor’s Note:   To see Dr. Herot’s 97-page abstract posted Jan.19, 2018,  entitled “The Department of Education’s Obama-Era Initiative on Racial Disparities in School Discipline:  Wrong for Students and Teachers, Wrong on the Law” go to:

    Max Eden, a senor fellow with the Manhattan Institute, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in March that the latest “restorative justice” practices are actually lowering test scores and increasing the number of students who feel unsafe at school.  Eden dismissed the claim that racism is the cause of more black students getting suspended or expelled than white students.

    “Most of the disparity is being driven by the kind of inequalities and inequities in society that, unfortunately, disproportionately affect minority students,” said Eden.  “Students who come from a single-family household are twice as likely to get suspended.  Black students are about three times as likely to come from a single-family household.  They’re about three times as likely to get suspended.”

    Eden said the decision to end clear disciplinary practices, such as consequences for misbehavior, leads not only to a climate of un-safety in schools, but also a negative impact on school achievement.

    “In California, when they banned suspensions and tried to introduce restorative justice, the academic effects in math were so bad that it would drag a student down from the 50th percentile to the 32nd percentile.”

    (Editor’s Note:  To see video and on restorative justice programs not creating desired goals go to:

    Meanwhile, Eric Premack, executive director of the Charter School Development Center, told the Sacramento Bee that such legislative mandates undermine the purpose of charter schools.  “Charter schools, the whole concept, is to allow these decisions to be made at the school level, rather than a one size fits all legislative versions.”

    What do we see by the efforts of the California legislation?  They are not content to legislate only public schools but choose to legislate charter schools.  What is next?  Private schools?  Home Schools?

    Three groups that endorsed the legislation included:  The California State Parent-Teacher Association, the Association of California School Administrators and the Los Angeles Unified School District.

    May I suggest that is why parents need to join an alternative parent group that truly represents them; such as the California Parent Alliance.

    May I suggest that the thinking of school administrators to avoid suspensions falsely gives them more time to do other tasks (as school behavior worsens at school sites due to a lack of behavioral consequences; something I have seen as a middle school teacher in Los Angeles Unified School District).

    May I ask the Los Angeles Unified School District what behavior data do you have that justifies a suspension ban policy for willful defiance in all schools in Los Angeles?

    Editor’s note: Suspensions can be made under some conditions, requiring higher level administrative action.


    Michael Hernandez, Co-Founder of the Citizens Journal—Ventura County’s online news service; editor of the History Makers Report and founder of History Makers International—a community nonprofit serving youth and families in Ventura County, is a former Southern California daily newspaper journalist and religion and news editor. He has worked 25 years as a middle school teacher in Monrovia and Los Angeles Unified School Districts.  Mr. Hernandez can be contacted by email at [email protected].

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