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- Why you need a Classroom Mission Statement - February 21, 2017
- Not My Secretary of Ed (Why the butt that Occupies the Federal Seat Matters to my Classroom) - January 27, 2017
- CA politician discusses willful defiance, educational priorities - October 7, 2014
- Teacher-Saving Web Tools, Part I: Differentiate reading news with Newsela and Readability - October 2, 2014
- CA Bill Addresses Suspensions and Expulsions - September 11, 2014
- Teaching Ferguson: Resources for High School - September 3, 2014
- Meet the Parents: A Young Teacher’s Back to School Night - August 28, 2014
- Minimize Homework to Maximize Your Classroom - August 22, 2014
- The State of Education: Funding Control Changes in California - February 26, 2014
Millions of students get suspended from school every year – and it is mostly students of color. According to the US Dept. of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, 16% of black students are suspended every year, compared to 5% of white students. When a student is suspended, he or she falls further behind in school, which continues to build frustration in and alienation from the system. It is little surprise, then, that these same students will continue to “act out,” resulting in further suspensions – or eventually expulsion.
A piece of legislation in California seeks to resolve this. AB 420 would amend Section 48900 of the state’s Education Code relating to student discipline, such that “willful defiance” of authority will no longer be a basis of suspension for K-3 or expulsion for K-12. Presently as of August 21, the bill has been passed in both the State Senate and Assembly, and awaits Governor action.
Sacramento-area Assemblymember Roger Dickinson (Dem.) authored the bill, which has been working its way through the legislature since being introduced in February 2013.
Under this bill, the CA Ed Code would still include quite an extensive list of suspendable and expellable offenses, but notably absent is the existent offense of “willfully defying the valid authority of supervisors, teachers, administrators, school officials, or other school personnel engaged in the performance of their duties.” And while it is indeed frustrating as a teacher to have a student “mouth off” at you or choose not to do his/her work, it is not necessarily something that warrants suspension nor expulsion. Often a student who acts out like this does so because there are other things happening in the student’s life that cause stress and anger; and as a teacher, it is much more effective to ask the student one-on-one and give him/her the benefit of a doubt, rather than to fight back with heavy-handed punishment.
We often see students engaging in a variety of forms of resistance while at school. According to Solorzano and Delgado Bernal (2001), these behaviors—as well as our own—can be classified in to four types: reactionary behavior includes “acting out” and misbehaving without any direction; self-defeating resistance involves opting out of the system, instead of seeking to change it (such as dropping out of school); conformist resistance includes “band-aid” fixes to problems rather than systemic; and transformative resistance is directed toward transforming the system itself. More often, our students react without purpose – frustrated at the system, but without direction to change it. We see it as an affront to ourselves and our classrooms, and punish accordingly.
That is why I am so excited about AB 420. Not only will it keep students in a structured, loving setting who need it most, but it will encourage us to seek to explain and correct students’ behavior rather than immediately go in to punishing it. It changes our behavioral response model from a punitive one to a reparative one – and that is more humane, equitable, and respectful for everyone involved.
Suspensions and expulsions are over-used and ineffective. I am proud of my state for working toward a solution to bring every child back in to education. It sets the groundwork for more reparative-oriented education reforms, and it sets an example for other states to follow. Let’s work to keep our kids in school!