Bill to create ‘segregated’ school discipline

June 1, 2012

Katy Grimes: With all of the recent talk about nanny states and politicians interjecting themselves into the personal lives of citizens, another such bill was passed in the Assembly Thursday. But this bill will allow the state of California to dictate the grounds for school suspensions and expulsions, but is focused primarily on black students, children of color, and LGBT students.

Apparently the “disparity in suspensions and expulsions for Black students, especially males, and students with disabilities,” is the reason for the bill.

AB 2242 by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, “prohibits out-of-school suspensions and expulsions due to disruption of school activities and willfully defying the  authority of school officials.”

These usually are perfectly legitimate reasons for discipline by school officials.

According to Dickinson, “this bill addresses the overuse of out-of-school suspensions under the category of “disrupting school activities or otherwise willfully defying the authority of supervisors, teachers, administrators, school officials or other school personnel.”

What’s behind this inane abuse of state authority?

The bill’s analysis explains: “A University of California, Los Angeles’ Civil Rights Project October 2011 brief titled “Discipline Policies, Successful Schools, and Racial Justice,” report that data gathered by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights shows disparity in suspensions and expulsions for Black students, especially males, and students with disabilities.”

In floor debate Thursday over AB 2242, Dickinson told of two extreme situations in which teachers expelled kids for merely speaking up or asking questions in class.

Instead of opting to change the impossible teacher discipline process to deal with bad public school teachers who may be improperly disciplining some students, Dickinson’s answer is to ease up on the punishment teachers are allowed to administer… but only on children of color and LGBT students.

Assemblyman Ricardo Lara, D-Bell gardens, chimed in that LGBT youth are disproportionately disciplined in public schools. Lara is one of seven members of the legislative LBGT Caucus.

“Are you kidding me?” Assemblyman Brian Jones, R-Santee asked. “This is ridiculous. Let’s just take out the teachers and administrators and let the kids run the schools.”

Democratic Assemblyman Sandre Swanson of Oakland said “kids are penalized just for raising their hand in class.” Then when they are expelled, Swanson said they move into the juvenile justice system.

“What in the world are we doing?” asked Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Hesperia. “Because you happen to be of color or a certain orientation, we are creating a whole new society. We are creating segregation within schools. No wonder the rest of the world is laughing at us.”

The conflicting UCLA report

“Disruptions tend to increase or decrease with the skill of the teacher in providing engaging instruction and in managing the classroom—areas many teachers say they would like help improving,” the UCLA report found.

“Yet despite these apparent connections to classroom management and quality of instruction, policymakers often treat student misbehavior as a problem originating solely with students and their parents. This ignores the potentially key roles played by teachers, teacher training, school leadership, or the school system.”

These findings would suggest that more attention should be paid to teacher training, preparedness and skill levels. Instead, Dickinson’s bill not only does not hold teachers more accountable for their own behaviors, it lets ill-behaving students off the hook.

“Our public schools are essential to preparing our children to participate fully in our economic and democratic future,” the UCLA civil rights report states. “With these interests at stake, U.S. policymakers must find more effective ways to educate all of the nation’s children, including those who may be challenging to engage.”

With this conclusion, how can Dickinson, with a straight face, suggest that disruptive students are being mistreated, and should receive more leniency from teachers?

Take a look at the list of supporters and the bill’s sponsors:

Public Counsel (co-sponsor) 
Youth Law Center (co-sponsor) 
American Civil Liberties Union 
Californians for Justice Education Fund 
Children Now 
Children’s Defense Fund 
Coleman Advocates for Children & Youth 
Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund 
Disability Rights Legal Center 
Fight Crime: Invest in Kids California 
Labor/Community Strategy Center 
Legal Advocates for Children & Youth 
Legal Services for Children 
Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund 
New America Foundation 
PICO California 
Restorative Schools Vision Project 
Youth and Education Law Project, Mills Legal Clinic 
Several individuals 

I’ve never even heard of some of these special interest groups.

Assemblyman Donnelly is right–this is why the rest of the world is laughing at California.

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