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to student suspension

The Education Code provides a variety of

disciplinary alternatives to student suspension, which should be used only as a last resort.

S 32 Leadership

even years ago, James A. Garfield High School in East Los Angeles set a school record with 613 student suspensions, out of a total enroll-

ment of 5,000 students. The school, made famous by the 1988 film Stand and Deliver, was no stranger to the high rates of student discipline all too common within the Los Angeles Unified School District. However, by the 2004-2005 school year, it had become clear to school officials that the prolifera- tion of suspensions was having little, if any, positive impact on student conduct and simply resulted in more students missing a greater number of instructional days. Officials at Garfield High knew things

had to change. But how? The answer, as it turned out, was in the various disciplinary tools and discretion afforded to school of- ficials by the California Education Code. Of Garfield High’s 613 student suspen-

sions during the 2004-2005 school year, only one-third were for acts of violence or drug offenses. The rest were for conduct

ranging from smoking to vandalizing school property to sleeping in class. Ac- knowledging that they had been applying a “quick-trigger” approach to suspensions, school officials transitioned to a progres- sive discipline philosophy in order to cut down on the number of suspensions. This included employing alternative methods of discipline such as apology letters, send- ing students to the principal’s office during lunch, and greater parental involvement in the disciplinary process. Garfield High administrators and staff

were able to use these and other disciplinary alternatives in lieu of suspension because of the substantial discretion afforded to them by the Education Code. Of course, progres- sive discipline didn’t always work and stu- dents who engaged in serious or habitual misconduct were still subject to suspen- sion or expulsion, but gradually, and with

By David Robinett

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