July 30 2014

It’s great for kids to get a break during the summer. But once the fall comes, students should stay in school. Everyone should work toward that goal: students themselves, parents, teachers, and administrators who run school discipline systems.

For years, advocates have pressured and prodded administrators to suspend students only as the last resort, not for minor infractions that used to mean a visit to the principal’s office. It seems those efforts are paying off. Educators now see the most effective way to hold students accountable for their behavior is to embrace common-sense approaches that help kids learn from their mistakes while keeping them in school.

A recent article in the LA Times reporting on a study from UCLA’s Civil Rights Project says that out-of-school suspensions dropped in two thirds of school districts across the state. But the news isn’t all good: suspension rates are still far too high and the disparities gap—the difference between suspension rates for White students and Black and Latino students remains still far too wide.

The suspension gap for “Willful Defiance,” a vague, catch-all category used to justify more than one-third of California suspensions, is especially wide. In some large school districts, the Willful Defiance suspension rate for Black students is more than four times higher than for White students.

Schools districts like the Los Angeles Unified School District have already done away with suspensions for Disruption/Willful Defiance, and we hope more districts will soon follow suit. This new report shows us that school districts are headed in the right direction, but doing away with suspensions for Willful Defiance would be a major step forward for reducing out-of-school suspensions. Students need summer break to relax, but once that break is over, students need to stay in class!