Tuesday, April 29, 2014

California Community Pushes Back Against Punitive Discipline and Policing of Students

When the Santa Ana Unified School District's Board met last week, it faced a hostile crowd. Families and students were reacting to recent events in which a police officer had placed a 14 year old boy in a headlock at school.  The boy had just defaced school property and the officer was arresting him.  The arrest was caught on tape and horrified many residents and students.  

This aggressive show of force provided the platform for the community to raise concerns about the punitive nature of discipline in the district and the routine involvement of police in school discipline matters.  Those present at the board meeting called for strict limits on the punishment imposed for "willful defiance," as well the circumstances in which police would become involved in addressing student misbehavior.  The rationales offered by students themselves were impressive and read as though they come straight out of the social science literature: 

  • the school's discipline fosters "'huge amount of distrust' between youth and authorities"
  • "students are “'losing their right to education'"
  • “They undermine student achievement and graduate rates”

It is unfortunate that extreme events must occur before these concerns can take center stage, but it is encouraging, nonetheless, that they are taking center stage.  Ironically enough, the district's "misbehavior" has given these students the opportunity to eptimoze democracy in action and the virtues of student free speech (for those who would doubt the virtue of student speech in school).

More on the story here.


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