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Los Angeles Teachers: Fewer Suspensions Mean More Unruly Students

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 9/11/2015 Rebecca Klein
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LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Teachers in the nation's second largest school district say a new policy aimed at reducing suspensions is also having another effect: More unruly students in their classrooms.

Los Angeles Unified School District was the first to ban suspending students for defiance in California and began instituting restorative justice policies that emphasize counseling and conflict resolution.

Teachers now blame LA Unified for failing to provide the necessary staff and training to effectively implement those policies, the Los Angeles Times reports ( ).

Superintendent Ramon Cortines said he agrees: While he supports the discipline policy pushed through by his predecessor, Cortines said the initiative has been poorly executed.

"You cannot piecemeal this kind of thing and think it is going to have the impact that it should have," he said.

Suspensions across the district declined to 0.55 percent last year compared to 8 percent in 2007-08. That reduction came amid a nationwide push to eliminate zero-tolerance policies that emphasize harsh discipline for even minor misbehavior.

One third of the district's 900 campuses have received training under the district's five-year restorative justice implementation plan, according to Earl Perkins, assistant superintendent of school operations.

Schools with adequate training and counselors report they are making progress. At Jordan High School in Watts, suspensions have dropped from 22 to just one as of October compared to the same time last year.

But community groups say it is difficult to tell how schools are coping with unruly students, in part because the district hasn't released data on indicators like how many students are sent to the principal's office instead of being suspended.

The district's teachers union is planning to start its own training amid widespread complaints from teachers.

"We're now carrying the consequences of ... not enough staffing to make it work and a lot of frustration," said Alex Caputo-Pearl, president of United Teachers Los Angeles.

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