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Most support alternatives to school discipline policies

I recently wrote a blog called School Discipline and the Prison Pipeline which was a follow-up to a more detailed commentary on my web site.  Recently there was a survey called "California Statewide Survey on School Discipline Issues" (conducted by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates) which was based upon a telephone survey of a random sample of 803 California voters.  About 80% of those polled supported reforms in the ways in which school discipline was practiced.

For example, one question respondents were asked was: "Suspensions should be used as a last resort after other approaches to correct misbehavior have been tried, except in cases that are very serious, such as bringing a gun to school."  Almost three-fourths (73%) agreed with this statement.  An even larger percentage (86%) agreed with this statement: "Suspensions should be used as a last resort after other approaches to correct misbehavior have been tried, except in cases that are very serious, such as bringing a gun to school."

Respondents were also asked their opinion on the use of preventive methods in general.  They were given this definition of what this means: "This approach prevents problems by teaching kids positive behaviors in the classroom when they are young.  When kids do get into trouble at school, it holds them accountable by requiring them to make it right with the people they hurt, and to give back to the community.  It still suspends or expels kids from school for the worst offenses."  The overwhelming majority (92%) agreed with this statement, with 69% "strongly agreeing."

Finally, most respondents support greater access to counseling services, in addition to mental health and substance abuse services.

Clearly, most voters in California stand in strong opposition to the ways in which discipline problems are handled within the school system.

A report in the Oakland Tribune outlines some of the biases commonly seen in school disciplinary practices in California. The article references a report from the Civil Rights Project at UCLA that "found that students with disabilities were twice as likely to receive an out-of-school suspension as their non-disabled peers, and that African-American students were three times as likely as white students to be suspended."  The report also noted that state-wide, during the 2009-10 school year alone, "7 percent of California's public schoolchildren and 18 percent of black students were suspended at least once, according to the report." 

Referring to Bay Area districts, the Tribune article notes that "the rate of African-American suspensions was even higher: 37 percent in Liberty Union and Vallejo, 33 percent in Livermore Valley, and 29 percent in the Walnut Creek Elementary School District."

As I have reported before, the racial bias is obvious and the public strongly supports alternatives to business as usual in our schools.

Keywords: Randall Shelden, school-to-prison pipeline

Posted in Blog, Social Justice, Juvenile Justice

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