State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced efforts to stem the rise of disproportionate discipline while providing support to students when they need it most.
Reports indicate that discipline rates have increased in recent times, especially for African American and Native American students and students with disabilities. Superintendent Thurmond’s efforts will include guidance to local educational agencies, webinars to highlight best practices in reducing disproportionate suspensions, and a tip line anyone can use to report incidents of districts engaging in disciplinary practices that violate California Education Code or mask the actual rate of discipline.
Superintendent Thurmond has long championed programs to help reduce disproportionate school discipline, starting with his authorship (while in the Assembly) of Assembly Bill (AB) 1014 (Ch. 397, Stats. 2016) which, as of this year, will have resulted in $140.8 million in Proposition 47 grants being moved from the criminal justice system to school prevention grants to help schools reduce suspensions and chronic absenteeism.
In 2022, Superintendent Thurmond co-sponsored AB 2806 (Ch. 915, Stats. 2022) by Assemblymember Blanca Rubio (D-Baldwin Park) to ban expulsion of preschool students, which was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom. Superintendent Thurmond is also sponsoring Senate Bill 274 by Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), which will ban suspensions for willful defiance.
“We have to educate our kids, not incarcerate them, and provide them with opportunities for learning and to succeed,” Thurmond said. “Taking students out of learning time through suspensions and expulsions is proven to push them toward the criminal justice system. School districts trying to hide actual discipline rates through practices such as masking expulsions as transfers will not be tolerated.”
Amid reports that some districts have pushed families toward voluntary or involuntary transfer to avoid reporting expulsions, Superintendent Thurmond and the California Department of Education are establishing a tip line. This can be used by school staff, parents, students, or community members to report any district involved in practices to mask the use and reporting of discipline or to report disciplinary practices that violate California Education Code, and the CDE will look into these matters.
Superintendent Thurmond also announced that a webinar on March 2 will offer school districts the opportunity to present best practices such as alternatives to suspension intended to help reduce the use of disproportionate discipline.
LEA participants in the webinar will be joined by William McGee, who directs the Student Achievement and Support Division at the CDE and previously served as Director of the Office of African American Student Achievement for West Contra Costa Unified School District, and Chris Chatmon of the Kingmakers of Oakland, who previously ran the Office of African American Male Achievement at Oakland Unified School District.
The CDE anticipates putting out guidance related to reducing disproportionate school discipline around the time of the webinar.
Superintendent Thurmond is committed to leading programs that can complement disproportionate discipline reduction efforts and help schools counter the trend of increasing school discipline. These include allocating a second round of community schools grants and a second round of implicit bias grants, both of which are proven to help reduce disproportionate discipline. Anyone who wants to report school discipline practices that violate California Education Code can call 916-445-4624 or email SchoolDiscipline@cde.ca.gov.
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