The Honorable Edmund G. Brown Jr.
Governor of California
Re: Support for Assembly Bill 420
Dear Governor Brown:
We are writing in support of Assembly Bill 420 (Dickinson), a bill that addresses the overuse of suspensions and expulsions in our schools and the disproportionate impact that's having on African American and Latino students' academic success.
AB 420 limits the use of subdivision (k) of Education Code Section 48900, which currently provides for the suspension or expulsion of any student who has "disrupted school activities or otherwise willfully defied the valid authority" of school personnel. This unspecific offense currently accounts for over 40% of school suspensions and leaves far too wide a margin for interpretation.
Research reveals that students of color are disproportionately suspended and expelled for low level, subjective offenses like willful defiance, and this leads these students to have disproportionately worse educational outcomes than other student groups. In a 2012 data report issued by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, African-American students in California were more than three times as likely to be suspended as white students.
Instead, AB 420 encourages the use of other means of correction (such as counseling, meetings with parents, detention, etc.) as the preferred remedy for acts of disruption and defiance, not suspension. It further narrows the application of “willful defiance” to only allow for the suspension of older students after multiple offenses and removes the ability to expel students for such acts.
More than two decades of research has confirmed that suspension and expulsion for such lower level conduct violations does not work. It does not improve student behavior and, in fact, can exacerbate the problem. In addition, students who are subjected to out-of-school discipline not only lose important instructional time, they are far more likely to drop out of school and enter the juvenile delinquency system, at great cost to the state, than students whose problem behaviors are addressed proactively with research-based supports and interventions in school and with parents.
We urge you to support AB 420 and tackle the critical issue of inequitable suspension and expulsion policies, which affect more than 400,000 California students each year.
Thank you for your consideration.
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