Los Angeles public schools banned suspensions for misbehaving students on Tuesday, becoming the first district in the state to do so. Instead of being sent home, students will face disciplinary measures while staying in school.
The school board voted 5-2 to turn back the zero-tolerance policy put in place a decade ago, after the Columbine shootings. Board members cited reports that suspending students leads to poor academic achievement and causes an increase in crime because students are taken out of class.
The school board also claimed by banning suspensions for “willful defiance,” which includes disrupting class, refusing to turn off a cellphone, or violating the dress code, suspensions would drop substantially in the nation’s second largest school district.
“We know that taking kids out of school is not an effective solution for dealing with students who have behavioral issues,” Tonna Onyendu of Liberty Hill Foundation, a nonprofit group that helped write the proposal for LAUSD, told TakePart.com “What’s worse is it leads to racial profiling in the classroom.”
Onyendu is referring to data that shows African-American students are suspended from school more than three times as often as white students in all grade levels. A study by the University of Kentucky said that “considerable evidence suggests that a history of suspension from school accelerates youths’ progress along a pathway to delinquency and life-long failure.”
But other board members questioned the specifics of alternative discipline and how the budget-strapped schools will afford to create these new programs.
“I’m not going to give you permission to go crazy and think there are no consequences,” said board member Marguerite LaMotte, who voted against the measure. She said that students needed to be punished rather than given a “free pass” for their mistakes.
Judith Perez, president of the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, told TakePart.com that principals who are in charge of suspensions already have so much on their plate without coming up with new policies. “The fact is, to have meaningful follow up with students, to have effective intervention support for kids, that requires additional training and support to schools and additional personnel to do it right.”
L.A. Unified Superintendent John Deasy told the board students will still be suspended for violence, drugs, fights, and behaviors that threaten others, according to the Los Angeles Times. But he wants to keep students in school for minor infractions.