Community Rights Campaign
Report Shows Time Is Now for Los Angeles to End Discrimination in School Discipline
This report is an important reminder that Los Angeles school leaders hold the keys to educational opportunity for all students, but they still need to unlock the door. And it is a call to action to end discrimination in our classrooms.
Los Angeles Unified School District leaders have long known that high discipline and suspension rates are a clear sign of educators' failure to help all students achieve their promise. For too long, African-American and Latino students have been singled out for behavior, labeled "disruptive" or "defiant" and pushed out of classrooms. Students as young as elementary school age are being sent home for anything from talking back, failing to complete an assignment, making a teacher angry, or passing notes with friends.
African-American students are three times more likely than any other student group to be suspended on any given day, and the United States Department of Education Office of Civil Rights found that LAUSD is disproportionately disciplining African-American students. There's an alternative.
The School-Wide Positive Behavior Support ("SWPBS") Policy that LAUSD adopted in 2007 brings parents, teachers, administrators and students together to establish clear guidelines for behavior and support students who are struggling with behavior. A report released last year by our groups shows that schools where the SWPBS policy is being implemented fully experience a 60% reduction in disciplinary problems and out-of-school suspensions.
At Edison Middle School where administration, staff, parents, and community have embraced the SWPBS Policy, suspensions have fallen from 255 suspensions in the 2005-2006 school year to 24 suspensions in 2009-2010. Edison Middle School did this without any new funding. In addition, the policy improved academic achievement and attendance and increased teacher retention. Positive behavior support is not only good for students, it is good for teachers and administrators too.
However, today's report finds that only 30% of elementary, 38% of middle, and 17% of high schools self-reported full implementation of the SWPBS policy more than four years after its adoption.
This should be a wake-up call to LAUSD board members and leaders to make positive behavior support an urgent priority. We call on the Board immediately to take the following steps:
• Develop a plan by January 15, 2012, to fully implement positive behavior support at all schools.
• Focus immediately on the one-third of schools with the suspension rates and racial disparities in discipline far above the national average, and immediately create positive behavior support teams at those schools that include not just parents, teachers and administrators but student representatives.
• Launch a campaign to reduce the number of students suspended and disciplined for "defiance and disruption." Research shows that this catch-all category accounts for 70% of students in South L.A. schools who are sent out of classrooms, and 40% of student suspensions district-wide.
• Schedule quarterly Board meetings to publicly review progress, look closely at the discipline data, hold schools accountable, and invite parent and community involvement regarding concerns and recommendation.
Parents are eager to be involved in reducing suspensions. "Data is the key. Everything that we've been feeling has been proven true with data. We knew our Black boys were suspended more than everyone else, and the data shows it," said Martie Reddic, a CADRE core parent.
"When schools share and analyze data with parents, they will be more involved with in their schools," said Leticia Arevalo, a CADRE core parent. "They'll be more involved because they'll feel like the schools are seeing them as partners."
As today's report notes, thousands of schools across the country are turning to positive behavior support to improve students' performance and school cultures. Now, it's Los Angeles' time to end discrimination in school discipline and help all students thrive.
To Read "Redefining Dignity in our Schools" the latest report from Public Counsel-Cadre, proud members of the Dignity in Schools Los Angeles Chapter.
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