School discipline policies and the school-to-prison pipeline: Speaker Series Feb. 19

Research also shows that students with frequent suspensions are more likely to become involved in gangs, drop out of school and become part of the juvenile justice system.

To discuss the issue and discipline options with less punitive effects on students, former Assembly Member Roger Dickinson – who in 2014 carried legislation to eliminate “willful defiance” as a reason for expelling students – will be at Sacramento State at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 19. He will be joined by a local school board member and superintendent, who will comment on the policy and practical impacts of Assembly Bill 420, which goes into effect July 1, 2018.

Equity at issue

Years of suspicions about inequity in school discipline have been laid to rest by a spate of reports. One by the UCLA Civil Rights project in 2011 revealed that in 2006, 28 percent of African American male middle school students were suspended at least once, while the rate was just 10 percent for white males.

Following that, another review by UCLA researchers in 2012 pegged suspension rates for African American students at 17.7 percent—more than twice California’s overall rate at 7.5 percent. And African Americans were three times more likely to be suspended than whites. The authors argued that excluding students from school while being disciplined causes them to miss important instructional time, and may result in a “greater risk of disengagement and diminished educational opportunities.”

There is data to support that claim: students disciplined more than 10 times have only a 40 percent chance of graduating from high school, according to Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a national organization of law enforcement leaders, attorneys and survivors of violence. The organization also reports that dropouts are eight times more likely to end up behind bars.

Several school districts in California have changed their student discipline policies to emphasize use of alternative practices like restorative justice , counseling, drug treatment and other social services, within the school setting. For further background, see this review of the suspension/expulsion issue from the California School Boards Association.

To learn more about the issue, join the discussion at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 19 in the Lobby Suite of the University Union.

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