Press Releases

May 05, 2011

South Los Angeles Schools Set Historic Goals to Keep Youth in School and Decrease Disproportionate Discipline for African-American Students

LOS ANGELES -- South Los Angeles schools are leading the way to support students with behavioral issues so they stay in school.  They are setting ambitious goals to reduce suspensions and implement a research-based policy with proven results.

Local District 7 in the Los Angeles Unified School District, which includes much of South Los Angeles, sent a letter to parents and staff on April 11 spelling out its commitment to the School-Wide Positive Behavior Support (SWPBS) policy.  LAUSD formally adopted School-Wide Positive Behavior Support at all its schools in 2007.

The move comes after an innovative collaboration between nonprofit law firms Public Counsel and Mental Health Advocacy Services, Inc., and CADRE, a South L.A.-based parent group, published a report in June 2010 showing the benefits of the model, identifying severe gaps in implementation, and calling for the district to fully implement SWPBS with community recommendations.  Consistent negotiations and partnership-building with District leadership over the past year have resulted in Local District 7 setting major goals:

• Reducing suspensions by 35% through the rest of the 2011 school year, and 50% during the 2011-2012 year
• Reducing the number of African American students being suspended by 50% to ensure that they are not overrepresented in discipline practices
• Engaging more parents through training and chances for parents to have input
• Collecting and reporting discipline data for all schools in Local District 7
• Ensuring that all of its schools are implementing SWPBS
• Increasing the use of alternatives to suspension

Some South LA schools are already showing remarkable results. At Edison Middle School, suspensions have fallen from 255 in 2005-2006 to 24 in 2009-2010. Research shows that harsh discipline policies without meaningful parental engagement contribute to the “pushout” crisis of students leaving school early.

“When you stop the kneejerk reaction of kicking children out of class and out of school and start engaging them and consistently teaching them alternative ways to interact and socialize, amazing things can happen,” said Laura Faer, Education Rights Director at Public Counsel. “We want to thank the leaders of Local District 7 for being willing to set objective goals for reducing the primary causes of school pushout and put the resources behind these goals to achieve real results for children.”

“We as parents are far more capable of being part of the solution than is acknowledged.  Share the stories, the data, and the alternatives to suspensions fairly and squarely, and we will be able to contribute to the success of SWPBS with our community understanding in return.  We recognize Local District 7 for working with parents to arrive at this historic agreement,” said Roslyn Broadnax, a core parent leader and member of CADRE, in response to the April 11 letter.

“Even in a budget crisis, this effort shows that schools can work together with the community to increase opportunities for learning and keep children in the classroom,” said Dr. George McKenna III, Local District 7 Superintendent.

What is School-Wide Positive Behavior Support?

SWPBS is an evidence-based approach to improving student behavior and learning outcomes by focusing on behavior modeling, corrective responses, and intensive proactive interventions, and by seeking to decrease the use of aversive and exclusionary punishments, such as class removal and suspension.

When fully implemented, studies show that SWPBS can result in a 60% reduction in disciplinary problems and suspensions. Secondary benefits include improved academic achievement, reduced dropout rates, higher teacher retention, and a more positive school culture.

Click here to read the report Redefining Dignity in Our Schools (pdf)