Press Releases

December 11, 2013

Parents and Students Applaud San Francisco School Plan to Eliminate Suspension Gap for Students of Color

As data shows 77% of suspended SF students are African American or Latino…Safe and Supportive Schools Resolution would end suspensions for “willful defiance” and provide a system and plan to support schools in applying alternatives to harsh discipline

SAN FRANCISCO – San Francisco Unified School District has taken a major step to reduce out-of-school suspensions. The Board of Education introduced the Safe and Supportive Schools Resolution on December 10th that community groups say will keep students in school and on track to graduate and reach their dreams.

The resolution states that “out of school suspensions should only be an absolute last resort” and requires schools to pursue alternatives such as restorative practices or positive behavior support that can help students learn rather than sending them home for an unsupervised vacation, something research shows only make the problem worse.

SFUSD suspension data shows shocking disparities in the issuance of suspensions. While African-American students make up only 8% of all high school students, they account for 50% of all high school students suspended for “willful defiance.”African-In addition, American and Latino students make up 77% of all SFUSD suspensions and 81% of all suspensions for “willful defiance,” a category under state education code that includes a wide range of student behavior including coming late to class, talking back, or failing to turn in homework.

If approved by the SFUSD Board of Education, the Safe and Supportive Schools Resolution will end suspensions for section 48900(k), also commonly known as the “willful defiance” section, starting in the fall of 2014. The resolution also helps schools to transform school culture and end the racial gap in school suspensions of African-American students through staff training and support for alternative discipline strategies at high-suspending campuses, and monitoring by the Superintendent’s office.

Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth launched a Solutions not Suspensions campaign earlier this year to promote positive change in San Francisco schools. Since then more than 20 organizations that serve youth and families have joined the effort.

Coleman Advocates and Public Counsel, a nonprofit law firm that works statewide to end overly harsh school discipline, said the resolution will address racial disparities in San Francisco school suspensions and support schools in putting in place alternatives that work to keep schools safe and help all students.

“Clearly our school discipline system is not working,” said Kevine Boggess, Director of Civic Engagement at Coleman Advocates. “It’s time for SFUSD to get on board with the growing number of districts around the country that are abandoning harsh school removal practices for proven, research-based alternatives that make schools safer, improve student achievement, and create a more positive school climate for teachers and students.” 

”San Francisco Unified is taking a huge step toward ensuring that all of its schools provide equal opportunities for children. Two decades of research has made it clear that suspensions don’t work for students or schools,” said Laura Faer, Statewide Education Rights Director, Public Counsel. “We have strong alternatives that can hold students accountable while also helping them learn to behave better, and reconnecting them to the school community. When we suspend students, we put them on a fast track for failure.”

Research supports the urgency of reducing out of school suspensions. The American Academy of Pediatrics found that out of school suspension and expulsion are “counterproductive to the intended goals, rarely if ever necessary, and should not be considered an appropriate discipline in any but the most extreme and dangerous circumstances.”

A nationally respected study found that students are 5 times more likely to drop out, 6 times more likely to repeat a grade, and 3 times more likely to have contact with the juvenile justice system if suspended even once. 

The Safe and Supportive Schools Resolution will also end “undocumented” suspensions, when students removed from class or sent home without appropriate due process procedures or documentation. The resolution also includes reducing suspensions and racial disproportionality in the Balanced Scorecard, which sets goals for each school. The resolution says the Superintendent must create a plan to implement changes within 120 days and give progress reports to the Board of Education.

Founded in 1975, Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth is a member-led, multi-racial community organization working to create a city of hope, justice, and opportunity for all children and families in San Francisco.
Public Counsel is the nation’s largest pro bono law firm with a 40-year history of fighting for the rights of students, children, families, and others in need of justice. Public Counsel has been a leader in promoting alternatives to harsh discipline in California schools. Learn more at www.FixSchoolDiscipline.org.

The following organizations have officially endorsed Coleman Advocates’ Solutions Not Suspensions Campaign and the Safe and Supportive Schools Resolution:

1.    Bayview Magic
2.    Brothers Making Change/100% College Prep
3.    CARECEN
4.    Center for Juv. and Criminal Justice
5.    Center for Young Women's Dev.
6.    CHALK
7.    Gray Panthers of SF
8.    HOMEY
9.    Huckleberry Youth Programs
10.    Instituto Familiar de la Raza, Inc.
11.    Larkin Street Youth Services
12.    Legal Services for Children
13.    LYRIC
14.    Mission Graduates
15.    Mission Neighborhood Centers, Inc.
16.    Performing Arts Workshop
17.    POWER
18.    PODER
19.    Public Counsel
20.    Richmond Dist. Neighborhood Cntr.
21.    San Francisco Rising Alliance
22.    Solidarity Organizing Project
23.    Sunset Youth Services
24.    Support for Families
25.    TAY Advisory Board
26.    Teach for America- San Francisco
27.    United Playaz
28.    Young Community Developers
29.    Youth Commission
30.    Youth Leadership Institute