REPORT RELEASE: California Law Enforcement Leaders Support Effective School Discipline Approaches to Cut Suspensions and Reduce Future Crime
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 11, 2012
Media Contact: Meghan Moroney, ph: 415-450-1913, firstname.lastname@example.org
Resources and local data at bottom of release.
California Law Enforcement Leaders Support Effective School Discipline Approaches to Cut Suspensions and Reduce Future Crime
“Classmates not Cellmates” shows front-end effort to improve classroom environment as more effective than suspensions, expulsions
SAN FRANCISCO (September 11, 2012) — Members of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids California released a research report today highlighting excessive suspension and expulsion rates in California. The report, “Classmates not Cellmates: Effective School Discipline Cuts Crime and Improves Student Success,” shows that California public schools issued approximately 700,000 suspensions during the 2010-2011 school year. Eleven suspensions were issued for every 100 students in California, the majority of which were for relatively minor, non-violent, non-drug related incidents.
“A student who’s habitually misbehaving or acting out is a sign of a child who needs more attention, not less,” Sacramento Police Chief Rick Braziel said. “To prevent crime most effectively, we must identify students who are heading down the wrong path and get them back on track, without unnecessarily disrupting their academic learning.”
Maintaining safe and secure schools is top priority for Fight Crime: Invest in Kids California members and all law enforcement agencies. According to the report, teachers and school administrators need the ability to suspend and expel students who commit violent acts, bring weapons to school, sell or use drugs on campus or otherwise pose a serious safety concern. Yet schools are suspending or expelling a significant number of students for less threatening behavior such as talking back, disrupting class or otherwise defying authority.
Suspension rates vary considerably between districts. For example, Los Angeles Unified School District had 5 suspensions for every 100 students, compared to 10 suspensions per 100 students in San Diego Unified. Sacramento Unified School District’s suspension rate (16 suspensions per 100 students) was three times higher than the rate in Los Angeles.11 Other school districts have even higher suspension rates.
“Kids have to learn that bad behavior and good behavior have consequences. Behavior problems left unaddressed can lead to more serious offenses in the long run. The earlier we address discipline problems in school, the better,” stated Los Gatos/Monte Sereno Police Chief Scott Seaman. “Suspensions, or even expulsions, are sometimes necessary, but they can also make matters worse, with students falling behind in school, dropping out and risking involvement with the juvenile justice system.”
Law enforcement leaders said that students must remain in school and off of the street to stay engaged in the classroom and steer clear of crime and delinquency. In many cases, punishing students with out-of-school suspensions and expulsions only exacerbates behavior issues as kids are granted an unsupervised vacation from school. One recent study in Texas found that suspended or expelled students were three times more likely to be in contact with the juvenile justice system within one year compared to similar students with no suspensions and expulsions. Middle and high school students who had been suspended or expelled were also twice as likely to be held back in school and were at greater risk of dropout than their peers. Fight Crime: Invest in Kids California also cited an established correlation between dropping out of school and crime: high school dropouts are eight times more likely than graduates to be incarcerated in their lifetimes and nearly 70 percent of the nation’s state prison population did not have a high school diploma when they entered prison.
“Behavior that used to mean a trip to the principal’s office is now grounds for an out-of-school suspension or even expulsion in some cases,” said Ceres Police Chief Art de Werk. “Sometimes students do need be removed from the classroom to keep others safe, but the punishment must fit the crime. Careful consideration should be given before suspensions are imposed.”
Members of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids California are calling on policymakers to support evidence-based disciplinary approaches that address student behavior issues effectively. These approaches can ultimately improve students’ behavior and academic outcomes, while maximizing time for classroom instruction and minimizing the use of unnecessary suspensions and expulsions. These approaches include:
- The Good Behavior Game;
- Incredible Years’ Dinosaur School;
- Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS);
- Restorative justice; and
- Social-emotional skills curricula.
“Research shows that we can get better outcomes for all kids and reduce the need for suspension with the right approach to school discipline,” stated San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos. “Anything that helps keep kids in school, engaged in that classroom as opposed to causing trouble on the streets, gets high marks from law enforcement. We simply must use smart approaches with youth today to prevent criminal activity tomorrow.”
Alternative discipline strategies can also save school districts and localities money. Researchers found a return of $31 for every dollar spent on the Good Behavior Game. Given the link between suspension and grade repetition, limiting the overuse of suspensions with proactive, preventative techniques could help districts avoid paying for extra years of schooling. Similarly, some schools, such as Pioneer High School in Woodland, Calif., have seen increased revenue through reduced suspensions and increased Average Daily Attendance after implementing PBIS.
“While California has made progress in addressing suspensions and expulsions over the last five years, schools today need more guidance, support and resources to effectively train school staff on effective discipline alternatives,” Nevada County Sheriff Keith Royal commented. “We must do all that we can to keep kids in class and help them graduate from high school.”
Local data on suspension and expulsion rates in each of California’s 58 counties is available. To obtain a copy of the full report, or to reach a local law enforcement official for comment, please contact Meghan Moroney, ph: 415-450-1913, email: email@example.com.
Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, is a national crime prevention organization of more than 5,000 police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors, state attorneys general and violence survivors, including more than 425 members in California.
Report: CA School Discipline Report (PDF)
Local Data: CA Suspension Rates 2010-11 (PDF)
Statewide Press Release (PDF)
Local Press Releases
Fresno County (PDF)
Kern County (PDF)
Los Angeles County (PDF)
Santa Barbara County (PDF)