CA lawmakers reconsidering `zero-tolerance’ student discipline laws

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.


Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • makeitgoaway

    Just the opposite is happening. Adminiatrators bend over backwards to keep kids in school who are otherwise dangerous not wanting to go through the hassle of suspension and expulsion because it makes them look bad. Instead the burden is put back on the teachers.

  • Jesse James

    I’ve heard that the African American Male Achievement office is currently underfunded and undrstaffed. I had hoped that this office/task force would have been directly involved in this and its related stories. Where is Chris Chatmon these days? We NEED YOU to work with us to better support Oakland’s kids! Katy, what is up with office? The dual (?) principalship at Grass Valley? And the continued overabundance of administrators downtown?

  • livegreen

    Keeping kids in school who commit crime is part of how Oakland creates a culture and environment of supporting ONLY those who fail. Meanwhile the good kids and especially the kids at the tipping point are ignored…

    Imagine being a kid trying your best in a school in a high crime area, and the ones who get attention or get away with things are the kids going down the wrong path? What does that reward system promote?

    Of course we must try to help kids having problems (often through no fault of their own). But not at the expense of those who are trying to do the RIGHT thing, (often with similar family circumstances).

  • Jesse James

    You can do both. From my long experience with OUSD, the first response when a kid isn’t easy is to get rid of him. Thinking through the myriad of strategies that might be helpful to one child helps all the kids in your school/class/district. I do think that the high rate of disciplinary actions is highly racial. I see it at my school all the time. The kids don’t get paid, teachers and district staff do. Shouldn’t they be making sure ALL (quiet, loud, distressed, content, etc.) kids make it? Isn’t that the job of public education? I know it’s mine. It is a tough job and I am so sick of listening to the tired who don’t realize that our students will have problems! That’s part of being human. If you need to give up, please give up your job but never give up on a kid because they’re too loud or aren’t like you. Figure it out, work on it and if you don’t want to, there are lots of unemployed teachers who need work!

  • Livegreen

    Jesse, Yes you can do both. But that doesn’t mean they should b treated the same, or, some of the kids who act violently (as Catherine mtd) shouldn’t face the legal consequences (as Catherine also mentions).

    Of course it’s not all or nothing, but most of Oakland’s publicized efforts are around kids and adults who have been in Juvi or Incarceration. The kids who are at the tipping point also need to b supported and encouraged BEFORE they go over the edge.

    And I don’t see OUSD -or- Oakland doing a good enough job supporting those kids and youth.

  • Jesse James

    I don’t see much of a positive effort for kids in need at all. I guess we have different perspectives. My experience is that of dumping and ignoring. Any effort to me is well spent. But institutional attitudes are hard to surmount. I hope for a well balanced approach so our viewpoints will be addressed and supported.

  • http://www.movingforwardedu.com Lacy Asbill

    Hmm. I find myself feeling very conflicted about this story. While I am deeply worried about how expulsion for non-violent crimes (like selling drugs) takes students off a path that will allow them to succeed in school and life, I am also very concerned about pulling violent crimes (like sexual assault) off of this list without a very clear plan for how to handle these kinds of incidents in a better way. I know that we have Restorative Justice in OUSD, and I do think that RJ makes a real difference, but what about elsewhere?

  • http://SuspesnionsinSchools Christine

    It’s intersting to read of these students that are suspended. My daughter is disabled, not black and with the Livermore School District. Has been suspended not for what was reported of illegal fire arms, drugs, and so forth. They would suspend cause of her bavior. and a threat to a vp, just cause the aide didn’t take action of my daughters needs. My daughter bit. My daughter is non verbal. I would love to do a report with Katy Murhpy on that.

  • http://perimeterprimate.blogspot.com/2012/02/three-handy-pages-with-facts-about.html Sharon

    @ Jesse James: I was curious about how many students the African American Male Achievement office might be trying to help and checked DataQuest (most recent figures are for 2010-2011):
    African American = 7,493 students

    The number of male students in OUSD who belong to the other most numerous groups:
    Hispanic or Latino = 9,475 students
    Asian = 3,176 students
    White = 1,908 students

  • Lisa Capuano Oler

    Can someone explain to me how a “Task Force” helps any students? Do they teach? Do they work with the students in ANY capacity? Do they work with students directly? If they do, then at what level? I am wondering what the public thinks they actually do? The only thing I have seen them do is have an awards night or something , for African American Males. But does anyone think that the Task Force is responsible for the successes of any of our students? If so explain, please. Funny think is when students succeed it is the Task Force, when they fail, it is the teachers who are responsible. Please explain.

  • Lisa Capuano Oler


  • Jesse James

    Nope I cannot tell you anything abiut a Task Force. But I’d had hopes for this one. I know last year it was actively putting things together or at least apeared to be. I was hopeful that something would happen. Silly me.

  • Jesse James

    @Sharon: at my school, 38% African American, 38% Asian (mostly Cantonese speaking), 17% Latino (mostly Spanish speaking). It’s usually the black boys in trouble (stuck out in the hallways, on the bench, etc), the black families who are blamed by staff, and it’s almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy. When there is talk of serving these kids, teachers say, “Needs counseling, Family’s at fault, Mother’s a b, etc.” Never , “What am I doing here? How am I helping/not helping?”The other groups? Office staff bends over backward–gets up from behind desks, speaks kindly and explains situations as if they were aberrations. For AA families, they are shouted at from desks, told that’s the way it is and expected to understand heavily accented and complicated explanations of district policies. ELL families get help filling out already translated forms and get a lot of face time and support in their native language, black families get little. That is what I mean by institutional mindset and what I’d hoped would change with a task force. And yes I’ve complained to my principal but frankly, he doesn’t know how to handle it. Wouldn’t it be great to have a strong directive from downtown that every student and family get the same basic level of support, service and courtesy no matter what?

  • Livegreen

    Jesse, Sounds like the Rexo and Board Member need to be brought up to speed. Family outreach needs to b to all.

  • Jesse James


  • Jesse James

    However, i’ve seen this at other schools too. So a global approach would serve to be more effective.

  • livegreen

    Yes but one has to start at a) before getting to k).

    At your school is there an ally on the SSC? Because SSC members (maybe even non-members?) can also go to the DAC. And my impression is the people at the DAC care. If all else fails (or even before it does) go to the NAACP…

  • IntrepidTeacher

    I’m not sure what I think about “zero tolerance” or most purely punitive (vs. rehabilitative) strategies. I don’t think they change the behavior. On the other hand, the kids that disrupt my class really do take away from those who want to (or are, at least, willing to) participate. Where do the rights of those who disrupt the class end and the rights of the rest begin? It really is not just easier, but altogether more effective, to teach in an environment where immature or otherwise challenged kids who can’t get from one minute to the next (regardless of the activity) without acting out.

    Biggest problem in this regard? Class sizes are just too big. If I had about half (or fewer) as many students, most discipline issues would be eiiminated. But we would have to really change our values. There is always money for more war but for really small classes, no. And I’m not talking about small schools with big classes, which is my current situation. I’m talking about big or small schools with small classes. Small, meaning about 10 students. Crazy? Maybe. But it works.

  • Teaches at Oakland School

    So pulling a knife on someone or sexually assaulting someone is ok? Leave it to a man to not believe the latter offense is grounds for expulsion. If the principle doesn’t have to report the infraction to the authorities, if a teacher saw it or it happened to her/him, are they allowed to report it to the police without fear of reprisal from the school?

    This policy would just drive away more families who are worried about the safety of their children.

    “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.” So how many times is repeatedly? 4, 5 7? Shouldn’t once be enough as a warning? What does it mean not feasible??? WHo is the governing board? How often do they meet?

    They are in school to learn and if they don’t want to learn, and want to keep others from learning, they don’t belong in a regular school. IntrepidTeacher is correct in saying smaller class sizes would go a long way towards correcting what is wrong with the schools. It is harder to misbehave and get away with it when there are 15 or 20 in a class instead of 35.

  • OUSD Parent

    “… 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.”

    As a parent with kids in OUSD schools, I have no problem with the current law. I don’t think that kids who engage in any of the above listed offenses should allowed to come to school. I don’t want my kids in school with them. Send them to reform school.

  • labman57

    My concern with these policies is when they are used to suspend innocent students for relatively minor infractions rather than offenses that lead to expulsion or police arrest.

    Zero tolerance policies are the result of administrators opting for an easy fix so that they no longer are required to use judgement and common sense and evaluate each situation on its merits. Similar absurd policies have previously resulted in students being suspended for bringing Midol or Tylenol (no drugs!) or plastic knives to cut up lunch meat (no weapons!) to school.

  • Livegreen

    I can just see the Board room now, with friends and family of the perpetrator yelling at board members not to expell their child. Do you think the actual victim of an attack is going to b willing to publicly face them down? This will only increase the Darwinian law of the jungle that plays itself out in a city where the worst get the most attention.

    Then Board members might make the politically expedient decision which is to let the person with the most potential votes win.

    How many cases in Oakland would the Board then have to review?

  • Livegreen

    Let me b clear: I think there’s a middle ground in between the “Defiance” reason to expel (that Jesse seems to talk to) and the more violent reasons to expel (per the State obligation and that many of you have spoken to). As often happens lawmakers appear ready to swing to far the opposite direction and not looking for a middle ground.

    Whatever your opinion it is worth registering it with your lawmaker. I also want to know how moderate and rational Assembley Member Swanson is?

  • http://monkjoelira.wordpress.com Joel

    I have to wonder if Assemblymember Coachella has stepped foot in any middle schools in Hayward or Oakland recently. If students were largely only sent home for weapons and drug selling, very few students would ever be removed from campuses. Students are removed because they make it almost impossible for other students to learn. I suggest that Mr. Coachella spend a couple of days at Tennyson High (Hayward) and McClymond High (Oakland) and he will quickly change his tune. I would also suggest mandatory actions against the parents of these juvenile delinquents, as might be the only way to get their parents to pay attention.

  • Parent stuck in OUSD

    @21. Well at one BOE meeting, the father of a victim of bullying at Claremont very publicly challeneged the district to respond to his repeated requests for explanations and action. No one at his school will talk to him At All, stating liability issues. How awful to have had open communication one, as a parent, expects and receives with teachers and principals be abruptly ended because your child was the VICTIM of bullying and physical violence (that landed his child in the hospital). Salt in the wound to have the impassive board oly respond with , ” your 3 minutes is up sir. I’m turning your mic off.” this from the same director that has launched a PR campaign to try and convince her neighbors to send their kids to Claremont. I can see how a system of not reporting CRIME in schools would be highly convenient in terms of promoting the safety.

  • OUSD Parent

    @25 – It amazes me how adults, especially the ones in positions of power and influence, continue to let kids down. What happened at Claremont was a crime in my book. If the kid had to go to ER, it’s more than getting shoved around. And for his father to be treated like that is unacceptable. I hope he gets answers soon and as for the girl that beat up his son, she should be booted right out of school. This “director” who launched a PR campaign to generate interest in Claremont has her own agenda and the best interest of the students is not a priority. There are fights on campus at Claremont almost daily and the administration turns a blind eye. It’s disgusting.

  • Lisa Capuano Oler

    This is so ironic. The only people who would be upset with the current law are the parents of those children committing the offenses.
    I so agree with Joel, spend some time in Middle and High Schools in Oakland before passing judgements and LAWS.
    The situation at Claremont is criminal.

  • Teacher

    I am curious about the breakdown of school discipline stats by family makeup rather than by race. What percentage of the students being suspended/expelled have a single parent at home (or no parent) and are such children more likely to be disciplined at school than those with two parents at home? Is the family makeup more of a factor in who get disciplined than what race a child is?

    Katy, does the report address this?

  • Catherine

    What if the parents in Oakland sat in classrooms of their children and observed behavior, documented extreme misbehavior and then filed a suit against the parents of the ill-behaved students and the district who is unwilling to give students a safe, secure and peaceful classroom in which to learn.

    I suspect that parents advocating for their children and due to financial pressures of winning well-documented suits, the district put in financial straights that would bring the state control back into the district might be enough to create schools in which ALL students willing to participate in a safe, secure and peaceful class would attend local schools and those students and parents who were not willing to do so would find schools fitting for the student and family personality and behavior.

    It would be interesting. Even if the family chose not to sue the district, it would be one criterion to be eligible to an inter-district transfer to a district that doe pride itself on safe, secure and peaceful classrooms.

    32261. (a) The Legislature hereby recognizes that all pupils
    enrolled in the state public schools have the inalienable right to
    attend classes on school campuses that are safe, secure, and
    peaceful. The Legislature also recognizes that pupils cannot fully
    benefit from an educational program unless they attend school on a
    regular basis. In addition, the Legislature further recognizes that
    school crime, vandalism, truancy, and excessive absenteeism are
    significant problems on far too many school campuses in the state.
    (b) The Legislature hereby finds and declares that the
    establishment of an interagency coordination system is the most
    efficient and long-lasting means of resolving school and community
    problems of truancy and crime, including vandalism, drug and alcohol
    abuse, gang membership, gang violence, and hate crimes.
    (c) It is the intent of the Legislature in enacting this chapter
    to support California public schools as they develop their mandated
    comprehensive safety plans that are the result of a systematic
    planning process, that include strategies aimed at the prevention of,
    and education about, potential incidents involving crime and
    violence on school campuses, and that address the safety concerns of
    local law enforcement agencies, community leaders, parents, pupils,
    teachers, administrators, school police, and other school employees
    interested in the prevention of school crime and violence.
    (d) It is the intent of the Legislature in enacting this chapter
    to encourage school districts, county offices of education, law
    enforcement agencies, and agencies serving youth to develop and
    implement interagency strategies, in-service training programs, and
    activities that will improve school attendance and reduce school
    crime and violence, including vandalism, drug and alcohol abuse, gang
    membership, gang violence, hate crimes, bullying, including bullying
    committed personally or by means of an electronic act, teen
    relationship violence, and discrimination and harassment, including,
    but not limited to, sexual harassment.
    (e) It is the intent of the Legislature in enacting this chapter
    that the School/Law Enforcement Partnership shall not duplicate any
    existing gang or drug and alcohol abuse program currently provided
    for schools.
    (f) As used in this chapter, “bullying” has the same meaning as
    set forth in subdivision (r) of Section 48900.
    (g) As used in this chapter, “electronic act” has the same meaning
    as set forth in subdivision (r) of Section 48900.

    32262. (a) There is hereby established the School/Law Enforcement
    Partnership, comprised of the Superintendent of Public Instruction
    and the Attorney General. The duties of the partnership shall consist
    of all of the following:
    (1) The development of programs and policies necessary to
    implement the provisions of Article 5 (commencing with Section
    (2) The administration of safe school programs and all training,
    procedures, and activities conducted pursuant to this chapter.
    (3) Cooperation with other states and state and federal agencies
    on matters relating to school safety.
    (b) As used in this chapter, the term “partnership” means the
    School/Law Enforcement Partnership established by this section.

  • IntrepidTeacher

    I really do wish it were easier to put disruptive kids out of the room. I can send them out, but I get a lot of flak for doing so, and they’re often right back, or back the next day, with no discernible change in behavior. I have tried every strategy I can think of, from incentives to consequences within the limited range that I have, such as detention, from heart-to-heart talks, to seat changes, to parent phone calls, to making them monitors or other small coveted classroom duties, you name it.

    To be honest, these kids take way too much of my time, and truth be told, at times, I dread going to work because of them. I can only say this in this very anonymous forum, because we are supposed to say we are excited, not exhausted, by the challenges these students bring.

    While I do feel some compassion for them, I also feel that they take away from the others who are respectful, reasonable, and make an effort.

    I also feel that another sacred cow, heterogeneously-grouped classes, are a long experiment that has failed miserably. I have some very high achievers in my classes who are completely short-changed by this setting. The idea that high achievers somehow benefit by explaining and helping their less motivated classmates is not borne out by reality. Really high-performing kids deserve an environment where they can really thrive.

    But the truth is, that we are all being held hostage by the so-called rights of disruptive students to an education. Until there is more accountability by the parents of these disruptive students, there will never be a change. Unfortunately, the focus is always on the teacher and rarely on the students, and never on the parents.

  • Debora

    Over 25% of all students leave OUSD schools at the end of fifth grade; however 40% of the high achieving students leave by the end of fifth grade according to Tony Smith in December 2010.

    Imagine the power that parents could have if they banded together at school board meeting after school board meeting and said “NO MORE DISRUPTIONS and you may not use my child’s teacher time to deal with the disruptions as too much learning time is wasted.”

    In our extreme attempts at egalitarianism we are serving very few of the high achieving students well.

  • Livegreen

    As voters we do have a power: the vote. Express your opinion to your local School Board rep and, in this case, our State Assembleman and State Senator.

    Follow up on their vote and hold them accountable.

    It might not work but it is worth trying. The worst that can happen is no difference. The most that can happen is change.

    PS. We often don’t hear about a) the aftermath of a vote; b) how our representatives voted. Newspapers used to report these votes and it made local politics both easier to follow and more relevant to our lives. It Kade newspapers more relevant to our lives too.

    Katy can you do this hear? And can the Tribune do this generally for all laws being voted on?

  • Zinnia

    Most students and teachers have told me that it drives them crazy that 3-5 students in every class need constant discipline and redirection. It is a repeated interruption and makes teaching anywhere from difficult to impossible. Smaller classes can help address this and I have to agree that the heterogeneous idea doesn’t work for most students. The constantly disciplined students just feel bad about themselves and are in always in trouble with their parents and school staff making them more angry and frustrated- vicious cycle; the advanced students are bored to death and unchallenged; and the others are just maintaining under the radar and not challenged either. The classes are too large for the kind of attention that is needed to help students to excel individually.

  • Katy Murphy

    That would be an interesting study. But no, that wasn’t in the report. I wonder if that information is even reported to the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, which collected the data used by UCLA’s Civil Rights Project.

  • Nextset

    Fascinating reading here.

    I have a saying I use when interviewing drama queens – you encounter a lot of them in the courts. It is pretty simple “Why were you there?”

    You have to ask it several times because the subjects just blink at you and continue to repeat their stupid tales of woe.

    So you ask it over and over – “Why were you there?”

    Sooner or later it comes out that they were there for the drama. They do nothing in their lives to remove themselves from the drama – they crave it. They are not going to leave – physically remove themselves from the action. They just don’t want to. That is, until they get sufficiently burned to knock it off. This is true for the so called victims and the defendants – they are typically all the same anyway.

    Back to the thread. Maybe it’s time for the teachers who are finally finished with this drama to follow the white families out of OUSD and go find a real school to work in. OUSD has no intention of becoming a real school – they don’t have to, the government money seems to be flowing fine no matter how much drama they feature.

    The problem here is that those who think they are real students and real teachers haven’t been burned quite enough to walk out the door and go elsewhere. It’s a big state and it’s a big country. Just move. You don’t have to go far to get a different educational experience. You can go to Piedmont and you can go to Redding and everywhere else on the West Coast.

    Brave New World.

  • Nextset

    What I also should have said is that if you are in Los Angeles or Oakland you can go to the nearest and most accessible Charter School – or join the new Online charter School Programs. This removes you from the drama of the collapsing Urban School Districts. You don’t have to go far to escape. You don’t even have to move.

    I think a well run Public Education system as existed in Oakland and Greater East Bay circa 1960 has tremendous social value in integrating 3rd worlders and those acting like 3rd worlders into US mainstream society.

    I think that was good for the nation and good for social mobility (coming from a family line that traces to slavery – I can appreciate social mobility). For some reason I can’t follow, we’ve thrown that away and operate as if integration means inability to discipline the lower classes. So we get the Brave New World.

    OUSD and similar districts just can’t bring themselves to operate schools in a safe manner. They won’t do it. Maybe it’s just that liberals can’t do it. So I suppose good families have to avoid OUSD and LAUSD. Which is what seems to be happening. Why the good teachers stay I can’t explain. They just help prop up crazy.

    Too Bad. But that’s life in the big city.

  • Alice Spearman

    What you said is truth. It is not that it can’t be done, they will not do it. Watch out for the phrase, “The studies show….”.

  • J.R.

    Nextset and Director Spearman,
    I have thought about it, and cannot disagree with anything you have stated in these posts. That is in itself a sad testament to a broken(failed) system.

  • Nextset

    JR: This is life. When you study large system you learn to expect certain things to happen. embezzlements for example. And then there’s the Secret Service scandal in Colombia – I know exactly how that happened.

    These things are very predictable.

    When you design a large system – like the US Government – you build in safeguards and defenses against systemic rot. You know that the large system is inherently unstable given it’s size or likely growth and you build in defenses. Compare it to imposing a chaperone on teenagers when you leave town for a month. So what they are nice kids – they shouldn’t be unchaperoned or unproctored for any significant period of time. The longer they have to get into misadventure the greater the risk.

    There is a risk that given time and opportunity the system will find a way to defeat it’s governors so they can have “fun”. This is what we are seeing with the collapse of the USA – the Feds have found a way to nullify the constitutional limits on themselves.

    As far as OUSD and similar school districts across the states – LAUSD, Baltimore, whatever, same thing. They no longer have the bridle of being required to produce products that are employable, literate, and free of venereal diseases. They get their fat paychecks no matter how bad their graduates are. Thus the disconnect.

    Maybe now this will come crashing down as even the black students can, at any moment, switch their enrollment to charters including the online secondary schools. Every year the Charters improve their advertising and recruitment. The writing in on the wall just like it is for Best Buy (no longer a sustainable business model).

    So yes, these silly teachers who think they are staying to “help” the chillun in spite of the crazy school working conditions need to start packing. They are not helping they are making things worse by staying. Stay if it is required for your own retirement plan but don’t delude yourself you are there for any greater good.

    There is a future for those who work for it. OUSD isn’t it. For staff or students. Too Bad, So Sad. I wish things were different but they are not. No amount of wishing and hoping can save Best Buy or OUSD/LAUSD.

    Your next schools will be better. How can they not be!

    Brave New World.

  • Livegreen

    Katy, I understand Edna Brewer and a number of other schools have systems for working with disruptive kids that avoid expelling them immediately and yet might have some success. Could you take input or outreach input for positive programs that might b working and therefor merit replication?

    We’ve looked at the problems, it’s time to look at the solutions…

  • Catherine

    I am currently working with two students who where shipped off to relatives after being at Edna Brewer where they were taunted, beaten up, and the girl was sexual assaulted in the stairwell.

    Both students have been on IEPs since early elementary school yet neither IEP was updated at Edna Brewer for the full time the students were there.

    At first most people involved with the students assumed that due to problems in-utro the students could not learn. But send them to another state where the services were provided, the IEPs updated and after one year they came back working almost at grade level.

    Edna Brewer simply does not work for the students I have in my neighborhood.

    I could update three more neighborhood kid stories – all that required another school – high school (charter and another district) and another middle school outside of Oakland. These are all students with involved parents and students who were on the honor roll but simply were not taught at standards that are recognized in other districts as minimum state standards in core subject. Oh, three different ethnicities, four religions, single parent households, two parent households, owners and renters. Different situations, same outcome from Edna Brewer.

  • del

    Let’s start at the beginning here. What is public school FOR? Why do we have it? In California, a student is required to attend school until graduation or age 18. So for these students who don’t “want to learn,” what are our options? These so called alternative schools are not answers even in the few cases where they do actually exist. Where is a solution? Where is it even clear what people want form their schools?

    Secondly, this is what we know: what takes place in a classroom is under a teacher’s control. It’s true! It always was and always has been. Certainly in the minds of many this is more difficult now than it was “back in the day,” but considering the universal rise in test scores it seems hard to prove. And if you think the students are the problem, PLEASE for the sake of everyone remove yourself from a school setting.

    Thirdly, I would like to see some more critical thinking on this board. Why does anyone think that a suspension would somehow improve a child’s behavior? Especially those of you who think students “don’t want to learn”—wouldn’t a suspension be a reward? And since we know that ALL non-instinctual behaviors are learned, wouldn’t sending a child who is struggling with behavior issues HOME, where they learned the behaviors, hurt rather than help? We’ve all missed school, we know it feels like all eyes are on us when we return. We know we feel like we are behind. Students who are suspended are far more likely to already be behind in school… now they come back, further behind, with people whispering about them and their reason for suspension, and we expect them to behave better??

    Next is the issue of heterogeneous classes. Are we saying that Brown v Board was a mistake? If not, how is separate but equal going to work this time? Or should a child who is behind at kindergarten just go ahead and give up on college? Or do we continue to use race/class biased tests to sort them into their new separate but equal classes and schools?

    Lastly, on the myth of kids not wanting to learn: who are these kids? Please go to West or East Oakland on a school morning. Watch kids patiently wait at the bus stop as they are harassed by drunks. Watch kids step over human detritus and walk around crime scenes on the way to school. Look at where the students are coming from… how many take more than one bus? How many walk over a mile? There are hundreds of thousands of places to be/hide in Oakland in cutting school, and about a 1% chance of getting caught & brought back to school. Yet they just keep coming back to school. Why do we continue to spread the myth of kids not wanting to learn?

  • J.R.

    Suspensions are not just punitive for the offender, but more importantly the other kids in the class learn that disruptive,abusive,aberrant behavior is not acceptable. Do I believe that suspensions are effective? NO, not really. I believe that these troubled kids need to be isolated in their own highly structured classroom-daycare, where they will not inhibit the education of other children. These hard to handle kids need military-type structure and discipline that they obviously never got from the people who bred them. It all starts with the parents(and I use that term loosely)who are irresponsible or just incapable of bringing children up to be decent,loving,kind whole human beings. Having children you cannot(will not) raise properly is child abuse of the highest order.

  • AC Mom

    Del: I will try to address your 3rd, 4th and 5th points…

    As a parent, I am less concerned about students that “don’t want to learn” than I am about students whose behavior is either disruptive or violent. Suspending those students is not necessarily intended to help the students, it is to prevent them from causing further disruptions. I don’t think that any educator or parent in OUSD expects a child to behave better upon their return from suspension. Which leads to the point about heterogenous grouping of students.

    I grew up in another urban school district where there were (and still are) 4 levels of tracking. As a student, I thought that my education benefitted from being able to move at a faster pace. As for tracking or testing of student’s ability, a program could be designed to be fluid. The program that I grew up in identified children, much like OUSD does for GATE, in 3rd grade. Upon entry into high school, there was a 4 tiered program. There was a tier for students who had diagnosed behavioral or learning issues, a tier for students performing at basic level, a tier for students who were advanced, but who had not done an IQ test, or whose IQ test fell below a certain level, and a tier for students whose IQs were above a certain level and had previously demonstrated that they were capable of advanced work. In order to remain in the upper tiers, you had to maintain above a C average, and students who were performing at a basic level who improved academically and behaviorally could “move up”. AP classes were available to the two top tiers with teacher approval. Students were quite aware what the requirements/expectations were of each tier. This is probably due to the length of time that these programs have been in place (30+ years) and the lower counselor to student ratio at the high school level. Students at all levels met with their counselor each semester to discuss their grades, career goals, and class selections.

    As for kids in West/East Oakland wanting to learn, I certainly don’t dispute that there are thousands of parents and children who are doing whatever they can to succeed; however, I think that those kids would be better served in a tracked system. I should also mention that under the system the I grew up in, tracks were the same at every school. The school district that I refer to was not a utopia, and reform is needed there as well, but I would be pleased to see a similar system implemented at OUSD, as well as more funding for counseling and vocational education.

  • Parent in Stuck in OUSD

    AC mom—that’s very interesting and disquieting that tracking is not the norm. Could you please just tell us the district? Still won’t have any idea who you are, promise :)

  • OUSD Parent

    From what AC Mom describes in #44, a good tracking program requires far more resources that OUSD can afford. While I’m sure it’s not perfect the system she describes sounds like it would address many of the challenges the district faces. In fact it sounds really good. Will it ever happen here? Doubtful.

  • Disappointed Oakland Mom

    We have a 6th grader in an Oakland middle school and will unfortunately not be sending him to his current middle school for 7th grade because of this exact issue. When I observe two of his classes, there are 5-8 students of the 30 who are constantly disruptive. I don’t see new material being taught because these kids never stop talking loudly, yelling, laughing and walking around the room. The teacher seems to have given up and I don’t blame her. The principal is frustrated that these kids are so disrespectful and there is little he can do.

    We sincerely tried and yet we will be pulling our high achieving son from OUSD and we won’t even try with our younger two once they hit middle school. Our son wants to stay at the school where he has friends, but he admits that he is tired of being in a chaotic environment. This is not the case in all of his classes, but we aren’t willing to place him in that situation any longer. Our son is lucky. We have options. Too many motivated, high achieving kids don’t have any other options and they are being robbed of their education by a minority of students who make it impossible for the majority to learn and teachers to teach. I would love to see the disruptive kids reached in a way that will make a difference to them and help them value and even love school, but until that happens, I can’t let my child suffer.

    We feel like we gave it an honest effort by working with the principal, reaching out to the teacher and being involved. We are very sorry that we won’t be able to send our kids to our neighborhood school for years to come.

  • Teaches at Oakland School

    Del, not all kids want to learn all things. They are required to take two years of a lab science to graduate but not all kids in high school are interested in Biology, Chemistry or Physics, yet they have to take them. Likewise with math and history. Why assume all students want to learn? Because they were imbued by their parents with a love of learning for learning’s sake? Hah!
    Maybe the answer is to stop having a one-fits-all-highschool and let kids learn what they need to learn to make a living, if they don’t want to learn for learning’s sake. There should be auto mechanics and heating and plumbing, construction, auto repair and the like.
    You ask why a suspension would improve a child’s behavior. As others have said, that is not the purpose-it gets the unruly child out of the classrooms so those who are there to learn can do so and the teacher can teach.
    No one is talking about heterogeneous classrooms meaning separate schools for races. Where did you get that? Teachers are supposed to differentiate their lessons but that is rarely done. Usually the teachers have to teach to the lowest common denominator and the better prepared, smarter students who already know the material waste their time and are ill prepared for college.
    I have yet to see a classroom where the more able students are given work of a different caliber so they don’t waste their time listening to how to use proper English when they should be reading Steinbeck. Teachers don’t do that because it it is hard to differentiate for 150 students. However, if you had classrooms of students who were of the same level, they could all be taught the same material and actually all learn something.

  • Nextset

    AC Mom: It would seem that you went to a real school, as did I in the East Bay. OUSD is not and does not intend to be a real school. It is first and always a politically correct school. It’s nice if somebody actually gets value added by OUSD but that’s neither required or really expected. For the most part – ghetto blacks will remain ghetto blacks – striving immigrants will continue to advance – white students will leave – and everybody else will turn out as they will. OUSD does not have a program in place to get in any of the students faces and make them more than they ever were. Because that would make them anxious and unhappy. OUSD is in business to pacify the students and their parent(s).

    The school you describe going to would challenge the students from the very first IQ and placement test. It would “judge” them and place them on hamster wheels with a mph requirement. If they didn’t perform they’d get Fs and get transferred out away from their buddies and into a socially inferior (perhaps) campus or class schedule. Oh, the pain and the stress! And if they had a bad day and assaulted someone or cursed out a single teacher they might get 86’ed from their program too. Imagine…

    Not going to happen in Oakland. If the mean old staffer stressed out the kiddie they’d be the one getting correction and the kid would stay in whatever classes they felt “comfortable” in. Not a real School – it’s a Romper Room (I’m dating myself – who knows what that is nowadays?).

    Am I wrong here??

  • AC Mom

    Sorry about the typos in my previous post…I went to school in Pittsburgh, PA.