Expulsions dropping across LA Unified with focused efforts to help
Mike Szymanski | January 22, 2016
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The number of expulsions in LA Unified has decreased drastically over the past two years, with numbers far lower than neighboring school districts.
Expulsions have decreased by 31 percent, to 77 in the last school year from 111 in 2012-2013, according to a report presented this week to a district board committee.
That compares with 150 students expelled at Antelope Valley last year, 145 at Fresno and 172 at San Bernardino, each of which has less than a fifth of the population of LAUSD. And, LA Unified officials said they are leading the way in how to handle those who are expelled.
“We have become the mecca for expellees from other districts, not only for the state of California, but for the country,” said Isabel Villalobos, the coordinator for Student Discipline and Expulsion Support at LAUSD. Just last week, students were transferred to the district from South Carolina and Georgia, and the district gets 75 referrals a year, she said.
The district attributes the decrease to programs that identify troubled students, help with early prevention and coordinate with outside agencies that focus on such as issues as gang intervention, drug treatment and family services. The district also keeps better tabs at the expelled students than other districts, Villalobos said.
“We do a good job at bringing everyone to the table and talk at a regular basis,” she said, adding that the district meets regularly with teachers, family, counselors and law enforcement people involved with the student.
School board member Mónica García, who leads the Successful School Climate Committee, said, “We are happy to hear we are the best in class in terms of expulsions.”
Villalobos said the district is also working with independent charter schools that are under LAUSD control but have different procedures for dealing with expulsions. She said, “We don’t want any child in LA Unified or independent charter schools to lose any instructional time. That would be the worse that could happen.”
A written report from Villalobos to the board mentioned Manahim Barragan, a student who graduated with the help of his counselor, Laura Solis, after being expelled from the district. He said that Solis “witnessed my worst moments and supported me to where I am now. I have now realized my education is much more important and should always be my first priority in order for success and prosperity in life.”
Of the 77 latest expulsions in the district, 67 were mandatory because they fall into the most serious of three categories, reflecting possession of a firearm, brandishing a knife, selling a controlled substance, sexual assault or battery and possession of an explosive. Those students must be expelled, and the district finds alternative education sites for those students.
Categories Two and Three are more discretionary expulsions but include serious charges such as serious physical injury, terroristic threat, robbery or extortion and bullying.
Thelma Melendez, chief executive officer of Educational Services, said she was “shocked that the number here is so low, I was really surprised. In the past year, I’ve seen why, it’s because we focus on the positive.”