An end to zero tolerance for willful defiance in L.A. schools?
California schools have long brought about swift punishments for instances of so-called willful defiance, which have disproportionally led to suspensions of many minority students not just in our home state, but nationwide.
Take the case of Damien Valentine, a Manual Arts Senior High School sophomore fighting against the practice, who says that several such punishments earlier in his school accomplished nothing but setting him back.
So just what is “willful defiance?”
That offense is now widely criticized as an arbitrary catchall for any behavior a teacher finds objectionable, such as repeatedly tapping feet on the floor, refusing to remove a hat or failing to wear the school uniform. It accounted for 48% of 710,000 suspensions issued in California in 2011-12, prompting both state and local efforts to restrict its use in disciplinary actions.
A resolution moving through Los Angeles County would make L.A. Unified the first school district in California to ban suspensions for the aforementioned offenses.
Said Tonna Onyendu of the Liberty Hill Foundation, a Los Angeles nonprofit:
“This will be a transformational shift. Instead of punishing students, we’re going to engage them.”
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Christina House / For The Times