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Wed Jun 27, 2012, 02:09 PM

Multiple bills to reform school discipline laws get hearing in California

A major legislative push is underway to reform California’s laws governing school discipline. A half dozen bills intended to do just that will be heard today in the state Senate and Assembly education committees.

The bills have been introduced against a backdrop of recent research that shows that African American and Latino students are disproportionately suspended or expelled. Some districts have introduced alternative approaches to school discipline and have reduced suspension rates, but these strategies have not been universally adopted. The flurry of bills is an attempt to make such practices part of California law, as well as to clarify aspects of school discipline policies.

In a sign that some reforms might emerge from this legislative session on the issue, two key school organizations are now supporting three of the measures they had previously opposed after the bills’ authors accepted a range of amendments.

The California School Boards Association (CSBA) and the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) are no longer opposing Assembly Bill (AB) 1729, introduced by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco. The bill had required school officials to use suspensions as a last resort. Schools would have had to document alternatives to suspension they had implemented before the student was suspended, such as a restorative justice program or a “positive behavioral approach.” The purpose of such programs, the bill explains, would be to address the “root causes of the pupil’s specific misbehavior.”


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