California bill would fail students by suspending discipline
The goal of the bill -- which is sponsored by Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, and the Alliance for Boys and Men of Color -- is to protect kids from excessive discipline in schools. The alliance is counting on the assumption that reducing discipline will result in "an increase in positive outcomes for students and the communities in which they live."
Unfortunately, giving students a free pass to defy and disrupt with impunity is likely to have the opposite effect.
Under the bill, as amended, schools would be prohibited -- as of July 1, 2020 -- from suspending any student from kindergarten to eighth grade "who disrupts school activities or otherwise willfully defies the valid authority of supervisors, teachers, administrators, or school officials." The bill also would prevent students of any grade from being expelled from school for the same reason. The bill would also apply to charter schools, which run on public tax dollars but have more autonomy than traditional public schools.
The folks behind this legislation probably mean well. They seem to be trying to do something to prevent students of color -- especially Latino and African American boys -- from being picked on by teachers and administrators with a habit of doling out punishment unevenly. Studies show that -- in an educational system where nearly three-fourths of teachers and an even higher percentage of administrators are white -- young males of color are disciplined at much higher rates than their white counterparts. Students with special needs also suffer disproportionately.
That's a legitimate problem. But an across-the-board ban on suspensions and expulsions is not the solution.
The most important lessons for young people to pick up -- at home, and at school -- are the "ABCs." Accountability. Being responsible. Consequences.
Those life skills are priceless. And young people will never get them if, instead of teaching them to do right, adults simply shrug and tell them they can do no wrong.
Ruben Navarrette's email address is email@example.com. His daily podcast, "Navarrette Nation," is available through every podcast app.
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