The California Senate is considering a bill that would prohibit schools from suspending disruptive and defiant students. The rationale behind the bill is that such suspensions disproportionately affect black male students.
This ban on holding students accountable for bad behavior would apply to charter schools and public schools alike, grades 1 through 12.
What are the details?
State Sen. Nancy Skinner (D) introduced SB-274 on Feb. 1, which was referred to the Committee on Education on Thursday.
The bill would prevent students in grades 1 through 12 from being suspended for "disrupting school activities or otherwise willfully defying the valid authority of supervisors, teachers, administrators, school officials, or other school personnel engaged in the performance of their duties."
In addition to giving a pass to disruptive and unruly students set on interrupting classes and making it difficult for other students to learn, Skinner's bill also prohibits the suspension or expulsion of students who are "truant, tardy, or otherwise absent from school activities."
The bill contends that "California law concerning youth, their development, and punishment for their behaviors has been evolving," suggesting that expecting less accountability and responsibility from students has been a mark of progress.
Skinner's bill suggests that non-heterosexual and non-white students "are more likely to be suspended for behavior deemed to be a willfully defiant offense even when harmless."
It also intimates that greater permissiveness concerning bad behavior by students would disproportionately benefit black pupils, who, according to the California School Board Association, are "suspended at a far higher rate than their peers."
Noting how in the 2019-2020 school year, black students composed 5.4% of public school students in the state, but accounted for 15% of students who were suspended, the California Department of Education concluded worse behavior was not to blame, but "harsher treatment for minor offenses such as talking in class and other nonviolent behavior."
Concerning a similar suggestion made in a 2019 report from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Gail Heriot, a member of the commission, said there was no evidence to support this sweeping assertion and that "there is abundant evidence to the contrary."
"When one looks at aggregate statistics concerning which students are sent to the principal's office by their teachers, there are strong differences," wrote Heriot. "Denying those differences amounts to an accusation that teachers are getting it not just wrong, but very wrong. It is a slap in the face to teachers."
Davina Keiser, a retired teacher formerly with the Long Beach Unified School District, told the Epoch Times that enabling disruptive behavior to go unpunished is "detrimental to the learning of everybody else in the classroom. ... It’s almost like a license for the rest of the kids to go ahead and misbehave."
Lance Christensen, vice president of education policy and government affairs at the California Policy Center, agrees that a failure to discipline will only exacerbate problems in the classroom.
"When these bills take away the tools for dealing with those who are willfully defiant, all they do is just move the violence to a higher level and escalate the violence," said Christensen. "[Y]ou cannot just throw the baby out with the bathwater and get rid of a discipline policy that works."
Christensen told the Epoch Times that "if a kid is willfully defiant, the race or the color of their skin shouldn’t matter at all."
Keiser underscored that equal treatment and equal opportunity demand treating all students "with the same respect, care, and consequences."
Instead of the potentially deleterious impact that disruptions can have on polite and obedient students of all races, Skinner appears more concerned with the consequences disruptors will face if held accountable for their misbehavior.
"School suspensions can also result in substantial economic and social costs for families, including other children in the household, their employers, and their communities," says Skinner's bill.
The bill also appears to pose a correlation as a causation, noting that "Suspended or expelled pupils are five times more likely to drop out of school and to fall into the so-called school-to-prison pipeline, costing the state an estimated $46,000,000,000 per year."
Skinner had authored a similar bill in 2019, which applied only to 4th- and 5th-grade pupils. It was passed and signed by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.
While California Democrats appear keen to have students endure anarchy in hopes of securing so-called equity, they are not alone.
Education Week reported in 2021 that the U.S. Department of Education under President Joe Biden was looking at "how best to support and build schools’ capacity to promote positive, inclusive, safe, and supportive school climates in a nondiscriminatory manner."
"All students deserve access to safe, supportive schools and classrooms. Discrimination and use of exclusionary discipline can negatively impact students’ abilities to learn, grow and thrive," said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona in a statement. “We’re seeking information so that the Department can help schools and educators confront disparities and create inclusive school environments that set all students up for success.”
This initiative was resultant, in part, of Biden's executive order 13985, demanding that the federal government "should pursue a comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all, including people of color and others who have been historically underserved, marginalized, and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality."
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