How to Improve School Attendance

A Practical Guide for Schools and School Districts
A Project of the Los Angeles County Education Coordinating Council

Module 2: Student Discipline and Positive Behavioral Support — 2

Exclusionary Discipline

Suspensions and other forms of exclusionary discipline remain at a troublingly high level.

Round Bullet  During the 2009–2010 school year, California schools issued more than 750,000 out-of-school suspensions,39 and more than 420,000 students were suspended out-of-school at least one time.40 In the same year, only 408,861 students received their high school diplomas.41

Round Bullet  In California, the most common reason a student is suspended out-of-school is for disrupting or otherwise willfully defying authority (Education Code 48900[k]). This is the grounds for approximately 42 percent of California suspensions.42 Suspensions for "willful defiance" can include anything from chewing gum in class to talking back or wearing the wrong clothes. In a survey of school administrators conducted by EdSource, the majority of school administrators surveyed reported that this category—"willful defiance"—was overused and misinterpreted.43 Fox News Latino also reported in April 2012 that it disproportionately affects black and Latino students, especially males.44

Positive alternatives exist and are already working in Los Angeles County and elsewhere in the state.

Round Bullet  The Los Angeles Unified School District passed a School-Wide Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports–based Discipline Policy in 2007 and rolled out training to all LAUSD schools in the subsequent five years. In the 2011–2012 school year, 26,286 instructional days were lost to suspension, down from 46,006 the previous school year.

Round Bullet  Oakland Unified School District has adopted Restorative Justice as its key approach to resolving school discipline issues. A University of California Berkeley study of a restorative justice program at Cole Middle School in Oakland showed an 89 percent drop in suspensions from 2006–2007.45

❖   On April 4, 2013, the Los Angeles County Education Coordinating Council passed a wide-ranging resolution based in part on the preceding information.   


Solutions Not Suspensions—a grassroots initiative of students, educators, parents, and community leaders—is calling on states and school districts to support teachers and schools in dealing with discipline in positive ways—keeping students in the classroom and helping educators work withSolutions not suspensions students and parents to create safe and engaging classrooms that protect the human rights to education and dignity. The initiative promotes proven programs that equip teachers and school administrators with effective alternatives to suspensions, supported by the Dignity in Schools Campaign's Model Code. (See A Human Rights Framework for Schools (Dignity in Schools), Module 2 Appendix A: A Model Code on Education and Dignity, and Module 2 Appendix B: Dignity in Schools Model Code Presentation.)46
Solutions Not Suspensions is calling for a moratorium on school suspensions.   Table 3 BUTTON

39 California Department of Education DataQuest, available at (2012) [hereafter, CDE DataQuest].
40 Losen, D., Martinez, T., & Gillespie, J. (2012), Suspended Education in California, The Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the Civil Rights Project.
41 CDE Dataquest (2012).
42 Unofficial data from CDE (2011).
43 EdSource (2012), Understanding School Discipline in California: Perceptions and Practice, available at
45 San Francisco Unified School District's Restorative Practices training; Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice, University of California Berkeley, School of Law (Boalt Hall) (2010), School-based Restorative Justice as an Alternative to Zero-Tolerance Policies: Lessons from West Oakland.
46 Narrative adapted from

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