Law Requires Corrective Measures Other than Suspensions, Expulsions
Posted by Sandra Lyon, Ed.D. on 1/2/2018
Happy New Year 2018!
Very few people would dispute that the best place for students to be each and every day is in the classroom – learning! That has been, is and always will be the number one goal of educators everywhere, and Palm Springs Unified School District is no exception. Unfortunately, sometimes the behaviors and actions of a student will cause a school administrator to remove that student from the learning environment via a school suspension or expulsion process. The administrator must follow the law set out by California Education Code in using suspension or expulsion in a disciplinary matter and that law changed in the past few years giving school administrators less discretion in determining when a student should be suspended from a school campus.
With growing concerns from parents and advocates about the amount of time students were missing instruction due to suspensions, the state Legislature, in January of 2015, implemented a new law that limits the use of “willful defiance” as a reason to suspend or expel students. Prior to that time, a student who had a first offense related to, for example, a bullying behavior (unless the bully has created a dangerous situation) or stealing, the student could face suspension or expulsion. Additionally, under the new law, school Districts are required to implement means other than exclusion from the learning environment to correct the behavior.
Such corrective measures could include:
Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS), which is in full implementation at four of our elementary schools and one middle school and partially in place at other sites.
Conferences between school personnel, parent or guardian and the student
Referrals to school counselors, psychologists or other school support personnel for case management and counseling
Teams to develop and implement individualized plans to address the behavior in partnership with the pupil and his or her parents
Referral for a comprehensive psychosocial or psychoeducational assessment in order to create an individualized education program (IEP)
Enrollment in a program to teach prosocial behavior or anger management
Participation in a restorative justice program
After-school programs that address specific behavioral issues or expose students to positive activities and behaviors.
Some first-time offenses are still punishable with suspension or expulsion. These include: mutual combat fighting, battery, possession of a weapon, possession of or being under the influence of a controlled substance, sale of a controlled substance, or commitment or attempt to commit robbery or extortion.
Overall, throughout the state of California, suspensions have decreased by 46 percent from 2011-12 to 2016-17, and expulsions have decreased by 42 percent during the same time period. So, more students are in school, which is a good thing and achieves the goal the legislature sought with this new legislation.
However, at the same time, school site and District administrators are experiencing increased numbers of complaints from frustrated parents or guardians who don't understand why a student who "bullied" their child is not removed from the classroom on the first offense. Similary, parents question why a student who stole their child's lunch or lunch money was not suspended for his or her actions. The change in the law requires that we must, instead, make sure we have first worked to use a corrective measure to change that behavior before we use suspension as a disciplinary tool.
We understand how challenging this can be for the entire learning community when students misbehave and are disruptive to the learning environment and our ultimate goal is to keep our campuses safe and conducive to student learning. But we are required to follow the law, which was designed to keep students in school as much as possible. We are continuing to expand our efforts to provide other corrective action measures including adding elementary counselors, implementing interventions and providing our sites with behavior support specialists. Ultimately, the goal of all disciplinary actions is to improve the student’s behavior and choices so that he or she has access to a high-quality education and contributes to the learning environment for everyone.
If you have any questions about when suspension or expulsion can be used on a first offense I invite you to take a look at the Education 48900 and section 48910 (which can be found at http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes). If you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact our Student Support Services Department at (760) 416-6032.