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dogged commitment to this new approach, the number of student suspensions at Gar- field High began to decline each year. In- credibly, for the 2010-2011 school year, Gar- field High reported just a single suspension. While Garfield High’s achievement has

been roundly praised, there is an under- standable temptation to dismiss its success as an anomaly or impractical to duplicate. However, what may be most significant in understanding how Garfield High went from 613 suspensions to one suspension is that school officials didn’t invent a novel approach to student discipline or introduce ideas that had never been tried. Garfield High simply used the tools and discretion that had always been available to them in the Education Code.

Student suspension, generally Existing law is designed to make the re-

moval of a student from his or her school a last resort in many instances. As a result, the Education Code provides a variety of disci- plinary alternatives and significant discre- tion to school officials to avoid suspension. In fact, for many types of misconduct, sus- pension of a student for a first offense is ac- tually prohibited. Education Code section 48900.5 provides in part that “suspension shall be imposed only when other means of correction fail to bring about the proper conduct.” Of course, there are exceptions for more

serious offenses, particularly violent acts and drug offenses, or if the student is a dan- ger to others or a threat to the instructional process. Notwithstanding these exceptions, for “routine” misconduct such as vandal- ism, disrupting class, profanity and smok- ing, to name a few, the Education Code dis- courages removal from school. This reflects a broader legislative intent that students be given a chance to improve their conduct be- fore imposing suspension. This intent is also reflected in Education

Code section 48900(v), which authorizes school officials to use different methods of correction before resorting to suspension or expulsion for most types of misconduct: “A superintendent of the school district or prin- cipal may use his or her discretion to provide alternatives to suspension or expulsion, in-

cluding, but not limited to, counseling and an anger management program, for a pupil subject to discipline under this section.” These provisions are not meant to pre-

vent the use of suspension, or even expul- sion when appropriate, but rather to dis- courage removal of a pupil from his or her school unless absolutely necessary. In the three school years prior to and

correction have been adequately employed. This presumption that many students

are being suspended prematurely is one shared by a growing number of state law- makers. In response to a series of high pro- file studies and renewed attention to student discipline, several bills have been proposed this year that are designed to encourage disciplinary alternatives to suspension

A logical conclusion is that many students engaged in non-violent, non-drug offenses are being suspended for the first offense.

including 2010-2011, California schools imposed 2.2 million suspensions, averag- ing approximately 750,000 suspensions each year. Of those 2.2 million suspensions, slightly more than half (56 percent) were for acts of violence or drug offenses, leav- ing nearly one million suspensions for non- violent, non-drug offenses. This raises the question of why so many

suspensions for conduct that does not threaten the safety of others or seriously dis- rupt the operation of the schools. Undoubt- edly, many of these suspensions were for repeat offenses, but a logical conclusion is that many students engaged in non-violent, non-drug offenses are being suspended for the first offense or before other means of

and expulsion. Notable among these is As- sembly Bill 1729, introduced by Assembly- man Tom Ammiano, which proposes to strengthen the existing law requiring that suspensions for most offenses be imposed only after other means of correction have failed to bring about proper conduct. It also expands the list of examples of other means of correction and requires documentation of those other means before a student may be suspended. Similarly, Assembly Bill 2242, intro-

duced by Assemblyman Roger Dickin- son, is designed to discourage suspensions for routine misconduct. AB 2242 aims to amend the law that currently lists “willful defiance” as one of the types of misconduct for which a student can be suspended. In its analysis of AB 2242, the Legislature cites research by Assemblyman Dickinson that approximately 42 percent of suspensions in California are based on the charge of “will- ful defiance,” which, when coupled with a failure to adequately employ other means of

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