As we reported in a story this week about the number of California school kids who received an out-of-school suspension in a single school year, the state’s public schools are required, by law, to suspend or expel kids who are caught selling drugs, brandishing a knife, possessing a firearm or explosive, or sexually assaulting someone.
Assembly Bill 2537, introduced by Assemblymember V. Manuel Perez (D-Coachella) — as introduced — would remove that requirement, with the exception of the firearm and explosives offenses. In essence, the legislation would leave it up to school officials to decide on the appropriate disciplinary action. It would also lift a requirement that principals report illegal activities to legal authorities; the failure to do so now constitutes an infraction.
Lastly, it requires 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.”
A vote on this bill is scheduled for next week.
Another bill, AB 2242, from Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento) would remove “defiance” as grounds for an out-of-school suspension (but would still allow schools to place students under a supervised in-school suspension as a consequence for willfully defying authority). The Associated Press reported last week that 40 percent of California school suspensions are given for that reason.
Dickinson’s bill passed out of the Assembly Education Committee on Wednesday (7-3 vote) and heads next to Appropriations.
Do you support either of these bills?
A statement from Perez’s office:
“Zero tolerance policies were written over a decade ago with the best of intentions – to prevent school violence,” said Pérez. “However, the way the policy is written has resulted in an epidemic of suspensions and expulsions. My bill seeks to empower our local schools to determine appropriate punishments, while still maintaining school safety and complying with federal requirements. I am committed to working with the Committee and stakeholders to determine appropriate amendments and look forward to next week’s vote.”
Current zero tolerance laws require that students must always be suspended or expelled if they commit an offense from a list that is general in description, depriving schools the ability to determine individualized disciplinary actions. The result is that many students are being expelled or suspended from school for low-level offenses – such as dress code violations and cell phone usage. In the 2009-2010 school year, 750,000 out-of-school “zero tolerance” based punishments were given.