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If California Relies on Obama School Discipline Policy, It Will Put Students at Risk

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Unread 09.06.19, 05:29 PM
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If California Relies on Obama School Discipline Policy, It Will Put Students at Risk

On 09.06.19 01:16 PM posted by Jonathan Butcher

California legislators seek to expand a law that limits a teacher’s ability to keep order in the classroom.

Surveys find opposition to such loosened policies, and research demonstrates that ideas such as these may put students at risk and even limit student achievement. The provisions also dredge up painful questions about the relationship between recent school shootings and student discipline policies.

Under the proposal (SB 419) that legislators passed and sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom for his signature, California schools may not suspend students in grades 4 through 8 for having “disrupted school activities or otherwise willfully defied the valid authority” of school personnel.

The measure also amends existing law to say that educatorscannot expel high school students on these grounds, and applies all of the newprovisions to charter schools as well as regular public schools. Existing lawalready limits the use of suspension for students in grades K-3.

Research finds that such policies canbe harmful to students. Studies from Floridaand Philadelphiafound that leaving troubled or disruptive students in a classroom is related tonegative academic outcomes for the peers of offending students.

Mediareports point to datashowing that minority students in California are suspended for “defiance” athigher rates than their peers. Advocates of the change say these disparitiesare enough reason to limit the ways in which teachers and school officials addressstudent misconduct.

However, research has not determinedthe causes for these disparities and has found other ethnic and genderdifferences in student discipline.

For example, a 2017 study of NorthCarolina schools found that black boys wereless likely to be suspended by black teachers, but researchers said the datadid not allow them to determine why. Othershave pointed to national data showing that white students are disciplined morethan Asian students, and that teachers discipline boys more than girls.

Variables such as violence in astudent’s neighborhood or home also could be contributing factors to why somestudents act out more than others.

Researchers from the University ofPennsylvania and Mathematica Policy Research have suggestedviolent neighborhoods or gang activity concentrated in urbanareas could be involved. They said “the greater frequency ofviolations among minority students could be caused by factors outside of theschool’s purview, such as more exposure to poverty, crime, and life traumaresulting from residential and economic inequality.”

In 2016 and2018,nationally representative surveys administered by Education Next found thatmore than half of respondents opposed school district policies limiting suspensionand expulsion.

This topic has garnered more attentionbecause of the school discipline policy in place when a former student took thelives of 17 students and teachers in February 2018 at Marjory Stoneman DouglasHigh School in Parkland, Florida.

Education officials in Broward County, whichincludes Parkland, had instituted a policy that limited teachers’ and other educators’ability to suspend or expel students—similar to the California proposal.

HeritageFoundation research last year showed that theParkland tragedy involved individual and institutional lapses at more than onepublic agency, but Broward County’s school discipline policy kept turning upduring the course of investigations into the causes and ensuing recommendations.

And because Broward County’s policyresembled—perhaps even inspired—Obama-era policy on school discipline,proposals to limit a teacher’s choices over how to manage his classroom deserverigorous evaluation.

Last December, the Trump administrationrescinded federal school discipline policy limiting suspensions and expulsions.

Former CaliforniaGov. Jerry Brown, like Newsom a Democrat, more than once vetoed legislation similarto the bill sent to his successor. In his 2018 veto letter, Brown wrote: “Teachers and principals are on the frontlines educating our children and are in the best position to make decisionsabout order and discipline in the classroom. That’s why I vetoed a similar billin 2012.”

The Federal Commission on SchoolSafety’s finalreport last December recommending therescission of the Obama administration policies had a similar analysis:

“Teachers are often best positioned to identify and addressdisorderly conduct at school,” the report said. “They have an understanding ofthe students entrusted to their care and can see behavioral patterns on anongoing basis.”

California’sgovernor and lawmakers should reconsider teacher and school leaders’ efforts toprotect children. Limits such as these on an educator’s ability to choose howto maintain order in the classroom puts all students at risk.

The post If California Relies on Obama School Discipline Policy, It Will Put Students at Risk appeared first on The Daily Signal.

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