If they had more money to improve discipline in their schools, administrators would spend it on counselors, staff training, conflict-resolution programs, support services and rehabilitation services, rather than security, a study released Monday reported.
But of course they have less money. And the study, by the Oakland-based education resource and research group EdSource, found that state budget cuts are affecting the ability of administrators to deal with student discipline and behavior. Overwhelmingly, the respondents -- from 315 school districts around the state -- said they were concerned about discipline and also whether it varies by students' racial and ethnic backgrounds.
The survey found that two-thirds of high school students and 42 percent of middle school students who are suspended are forced to stay out of school three or more days. Sometimes, those punishments are mandated by the state's Education Code. There is also unhappiness, at least among a minority of administrators, with state law on expulsion. Twenty-two percent of those responding who had expelled students said they wish the law offered them an alternative.
The discipline study comes as the Oakland Unified School district is set to consider a plan Wednesday, hammered out in response to an investigation by the U.S. Office of Civil Rights into whether the district has been more harshly punishing black students than other students. Last spring, a UCLA study found that in
In San Jose, the East Side Union High School District -- which has severely cut back support staff and increased class sizes by three students -- is seeing teachers more often sending academically struggling students out of class, Assistant Superintendent Juan Cruz said. "Students may be referred because they routinely don't bring in homework or are pretty passive in class," he said, incidents which accumulate and may get them suspended. Next week the district will discuss creating an alternative to "zero tolerance" policies that force suspension.
In addition, East Side has been working with the Santa Clara County Public Defenders Office on recrafting discipline policies. "We want to see if we can intervene earlier than when students are having to be in the (criminal justice) system," Cruz said.
Likewise, the Contra Costa County Office of Education works with the county District Attorney's Office and others on reducing truancy, including in early grades. "It's good for schools to have students in school -- from the very beginning," spokeswoman Peggy Marshburn said. The office is also looking at imposing in-school rather than out-of-school suspensions.
The EdSource survey also found that 59 percent of schools use video cameras on campus, but only 5 percent have metal detectors on all their campuses. In addition, administrators feel that community resources -- those helping students with academic as well as other issues, such as mental health or counseling -- are not adequate to meet students' needs.
Contact Sharon Noguchi at 408-271-3775. Follow her at Twitter.com/NoguchiOnK12.
A survey by the Oakland-based education resource and research group EdSource last spring queried school districts with an enrollment of more than 1,000 students. The 315 responding school districts have enrollment totalling 4.1 million students, or two-thirds of California public-school students.
Among the questions, the survey asked how schools would spend additional funds, if available, to solve discipline problems. Sixty-eight percent said their top priority would be school counselors and support staff.
In addition, the study asked administrators to list their high priorities:
52 percent -- staff training
48 percent -- "wrap-around" community services for needs like mental health and family support
43 percent -- conflict resolution programs
42 percent -- rehabilitation services for suspended and expelled students
37 percent -- more school administrators
28 percent -- in-school suspension classes
26 percent -- security staff