Students who are poor

Students who are poor

SF panel advocates classrooms, not courtrooms for students

The first instinct of a teacher faced with a disobedient student might be to punish that child, possibly through suspension or in more extreme cases, expulsion.

But that’s often an ineffective response as well as one of the leading contributors to a trend within public schools to impose harsh disciplinary policies that significantly increase a student’s likelihood of being incarcerated later in life, often referred to as the “school-to-prison pipeline,” according to a group of panelists at UC Hastings College of the Law.

For years, however, San Francisco schools and city leaders have been taking steps to reduce the number of students who are suspended or commit repeat offenses.

According to the panel, which met Wednesday in anticipation of the 60th anniversary of the landmark desegregation ruling Brown vs. Board of Education, an “alarmingly-disproportionate” number of students who are poor, a minority, disabled or identify as LGBT are more likely to be suspended or expelled for exhibiting willful defiance.

“School suspensions and expulsions are the most reliable predictors of who will be left behind and drop out,” said Nancy Appel, associate director of the Anti-Defamation League, which hosted the panel.

A student who’s been suspended is more than three times more likely to drop out in the first two years of high school than a student who has never been suspended, the league notes.

Additionally, incarceration rates among young adults who dropped out of high school were more than 63 times higher than those of students with college degrees, according to the league.

Black students comprised 10 percent of the San Francisco Unified School District population in 2012-13, but accounted for nearly 50 percent of suspensions and expulsions, district officials said. They also missed an average of 19 more school days annually than their peers.

Despite those numbers, district officials say they remain committed to ending the disproportionate number of suspensions and expulsions. SFUSD in February became the second district in California to pass a resolution favoring alternatives to suspensions, including restorative practices, and the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office is the only public defender’s office in the state with a unit devoted to educational advocacy for juveniles who are arrested.

Reversing the “school-to-prison pipeline” is also a priority for the District Attorney’s Office, which last year allocated $130,000 for truancy intervention programs at two high schools and also launched a restorative justice alternative to traditional prosecution.

Officials note that the number of youth incarcerated in The City has decreased dramatically over the years. The public defender’s office issued a moratorium on sending juveniles to the California Youth Authority in 2005, and the number of kids in youth custody has dropped by 50 percent in the last four years, from nearly 140 to around 70.

However, panelists said the work is far from over and schools throughout the state and nationwide need to continue focusing on alternative solutions to suspensions, such as teaching youth how to engage in healthy activities within their school and conflict resolution.

Take a 7-year-old boy who lives in foster care and has experienced “chronic trauma,” said Zabrina Aleguire, one of the panelists and a senior staff attorney at San Francisco-based Legal Services for Children. When Aleguire first started working with the boy, “he’d been suspended more times than I can count,” she said, and would throw desks and hit other children in his class.

But when the boy was placed in a different school where he wasn’t physically restrained after acting out, his behavior improved, Aleguire said.

“He’s now been able to pretty successfully be engaged in regular classroom settings, in an environment that’s figured out ways to create positive reinforcement,” she said.Anti-Defamation LeagueBay Area NewseducationSan Francisco Public Defender's OfficeSan Francisco Unified School District

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Deputy public defender Chris Garcia outside the Hall of Justice on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
As pandemic wanes, SF public defender hopes clients will get ‘their day in court’

Like other attorneys in San Francisco, Deputy Public Defender Chris Garcia has… Continue reading

Hyphen hosts a group show at Space Gallery in San Francisco in 2010. (Photo courtesy of Albert Law/Pork Belly Studio)
What’s in a name? Asian American magazine fights to keep its identity

An investor-backed media group laid claim to the moniker of SF’s long-running Hyphen magazine, sparking a conversation about writing over community history

A warning notice sits under the windshield wiper of a recreational vehicle belonging to a homeless man named David as it sits parked on De Wolf Street near Alemany Boulevard on Friday, Aug. 31, 2018. A proposed SF Municipal Transportation Agency law would make it illegal for overnight parking on the side street for vehicles taller than seven feet or longer than 22 feet. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Fight over ‘poverty tows’ heats up

‘What can we do to ensure the vehicle stays in the hands of the owner?’

Crab fisherman Skip Ward of Marysville casts his crab net out off a pier near Fort Point. (Craig Lee/Special to The	Examiner)
San Francisco came back to life, and we captured it all

Last spring, in the early days of the pandemic, the bestselling authors… Continue reading

Revelers at Madrone Art Bar in the early hours of June 15, 2021 (Courtesy Power Quevedo).
No social distancing at Motown-themed dance party

‘I don’t care how anyone feels, I just want to dance!’

Most Read