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Suspension and expulsion rates decline, in state and LAUSD

Chase Niesner | January 30, 2014

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CDEA new system for collecting school data shows that statewide suspension and expulsion figures are falling due to policy changes regarding student behavior. Between the 2011-12 and 2012-13 academic years, expulsions decreased by 12.3 percent and suspensions by 14.1 percent.

The data also shows LA Unified well ahead of the curve, a trend the state credits to major policy shifts in the district and its adoption of a “restorative justice” program. The district’s expulsions dropped by 15.1 percent, while suspensions dropped by 37.5 percent.

Though it’s unclear what LA Unified policy or restorative justice program the California Department of Education is citing specifically, a department spokeswoman for the CDE said in an email that state superintendent Tom Torlakson led the way by sponsoring various workshops across the state that focused on the merits of discipline models intended to to keep students in school.

Last May, the LA Unified school board passed legislation that ended the district’s zero tolerance policy for willful defiance, legislation known as the School Climate Bill of Rights. But its passage came well after the collection of the data in question. The School Climate Bill of Rights was sponsored by Board Member Monica Garcia and passed, 5-2, after contentious debate, with Tamar Galatzan and the late Marguerite LaMotte dissenting.

Torlakson noted the positive legislative steps that have been taken across the state, but admitted there’s still plenty of work to be done.

“Although fewer students are being removed from the classroom in every demographic across the state, the rates remain troubling and show that educators and school communities have a long road ahead,” he said in a press release.

The data reaffirms the wide-spread claims that racial disparities still exist in school discipline policy, an issue addressed for the first time by the Obama administration just two weeks ago. For example, African-American students make up only 6.3 percent of the state’s total enrollment, but 16.2 percent of the state’s suspensions. Hispanic students make up 52.7 percent of total enrollment, but 54.6 percent of suspensions.

The state began collecting data on suspension and expulsion rates with its CALPADS data system only two years ago, a process it expects will improve as districts become more familiar with the reporting system.

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