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Merced County District Attorney Larry Morse Testifies Before the California State Senate

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Merced County District Attorney Larry Morse testified today before the Senate Education Committee in support of SB 1235. The legislation, proposed by California State Sen. Darrell Steinberg, would require schools with excessive levels of student suspensions to adopt evidence-based, schoolwide discipline strategies to reduce the use of suspensions and improve academic achievement and attendance.

District Attorney Morse testified on behalf of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a national anti-crime organization of police chiefs, sheriffs, district attorneys and violence survivors, representing over 400 law enforcement leaders throughout California.

“This measure is so important because research and years of experience show that keeping kids in school is the best way to prevent crime,” stated Morse. “Suspensions not only keep kids out of school—and often unsupervised—for the days of their suspension, they also can make kids fall behind and become disengaged, all too often leading to school dropout and crime.”

California recorded 750,000 suspensions in 2009-10, a number nearly equivalent in size to the entire population of the city of San Francisco.

In general, schools have discretion over the grounds for suspension and commonly remove students from class for non-violent offenses such as disrupting class, talking back, cursing or defying authority. This disproportionate use of suspension is a significant contributor to California’s high dropout rates, which are highest among students of color.

New research from the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the Civil Rights Project found that over 2,200 students are suspended out-of-school each school day in California. The report, Suspended Education in California’s Public Schools, analyzed data from the U.S. Department of Education and provides statewide estimates and discipline data on out-of-school suspensions by race and demographics in nearly 500 districts across California.

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