Civil rights advocates in California hit a roadblock Sunday (Sept. 30) when the state’s governor said no to expanding a ban on school suspensions that disproportionately affect students of color and those with disabilities.
Governor Jerry Brown vetoed the state ban — challenging school discipline suspensions prompted by “disruption and defiance” — which already covers grades K-3. If Brown had voted in favor of the expansion, the ban would have also included grades 4-8.
Initially, advocates called for the ban to include grades K-12. However, they took out several grades in an effort to compromise and win support from the Association of California School Administrators and the California School Boards Association, EdSource reported.
Advocates seemingly knew that they would have an uphill battle with Brown when it came to expanding the ban. The governor vetoed a similar expansion ban in 2012 over concerns that the measure would jeopardize “local control” of schools.
Brown did bend slightly in 2014 when he signed the rule that stopped suspensions in grades K-3 in 2014. His move made it illegal in California for schools to suspend children in those grades for disruptive behavior.
The governor reiterated his original position about preserving “local control” with Sunday’s veto of expanding the bill to grades 4-8. “Teachers and principals are on the front lines of educating our children and are in the best position to make decisions about order and discipline in the classrooms,” Brown said in the veto message on Sunday.
Brown’s treatment doesn’t eclipse the alarming statistics about racial disparities in school suspensions in the state. African-American students lost 71 days per 100 students in the 7th and 8th grades — nearly four times the number of days lost by white students in those grades, according to a UCLA Center for Civil Rights Remedies report published last month.
Though state suspensions have decreased in recent years with the grades K-3 ban, there is still a lot of work to do on closing the suspension gap. A $15 million grant in this year’s state budget will fund a pilot program for finding alternatives to suspensions, Brown said.
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