Suspending judgment - Page 3

SFUSD considers alternatives to suspensions that some say unfairly impact students of color

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Guardian photo by Brittany M. Powell

He was five years old, and as kindergartners sometimes do, he threw a temper tantrum. In the school's desperation to contain him, officials called the SFPD.

"The police only came one time," Desamuel, now seven, told the Guardian. Sitting in his San Francisco home with his uncle Lionel, Desamuel sounded ashamed. "But I didn't go to jail because they only put kids in jail for being bad, like kids taking guns to school."

The memory angers Desamuel's uncle, who feels restorative practices would have prevented the misunderstanding. His home is a testament to bridge building.

Lionel, his brothers and mother all pitch in to take care of Desamuel while the boy's father makes what he calls "a transition." The home is large by San Francisco standards. Drawings of Spiderman and Batman line the wall, equal in number only to the portraits of their family, most of whom live in the city. There's a lot of care in Desamuel's life. That hasn't stopped his tantrums, though.

The family tried to get him therapy, psychological analysis, anything to help. But as any parent can tell you, sometimes a child just needs love.

Lionel struggled with the school's administration, and asked them to try less punitive ways of handling his nephew. "I told them to just hug the boy. Their response was 'it's hard to hug someone swinging at you.'"

The last time Desamuel fought a student he was tackled to the ground by a school security guard. The now-second grader came home with a bruise on his face.

"When I was bad I hurted the children. I wasn't supposed to get up, and couldn't get up off the ground. He took me by the arms and legs," Desamuel said.

The problem with outsize use of suspensions and punitive action, Berkowitz said, is that it breeds a fear of school that shouldn't exist. Desamuel is no different.

"I got sent to the office and I had to go to the principal's office and they talked about me being bad," Desamuel said. "I think because I make too much trouble I have a lot of problems and they don't want me to be there."

Cat Reyes is a history teacher who is now a Restorative Practices coach at Mission High School. She said transformation in behavior is the whole point.

She told the Guardian about a student recorded a fight on film. The two fighting teenagers tried to let the incident go, but with the video online for all to see their pride came between them. If the school suspended the girl who recorded the fight there may never have been resolution. The wounds would fester.

But now the girl will join a restorative circle and explain her actions to those involved in the fight, and their parents. That's far more daunting to kids than simply going home for a day, Reyes said. It doesn't just stop at the talk though. "On one end she has to say sorry," Reyes said. "But now she may go to the media center and create a [movie] about it on our closed circuit TV. The consequence fits the crime."

As students talk out their differences enemies can become friends, she said. After all, the goal is to correct bad behavior and break destructive cycles. Yet less than half of the schools in SFUSD are employing Restorative Practices.

Slowly but surely

One of the biggest critiques of Restorative Practices is that it removes consequences. That's the wrong way to look at it, Berkowitz said: "When people say consequences, they mean punishment. We want to work with students to find root causes."

The numbers back her up: 2,700 SFUSD staff members have trained in Restorative Practices, according to data provided by the district. This consequently led to a strong reduction in suspensions, the district says, from more than 3,000 in 2009 to about 1,800 last year.

SFUSD recognized a good thing when it saw it, growing the Restorative Practices budget from $650,000 in 2009 to $900,000 in 2013.

Comments

even if the only reason for that is that non-white kids are causing more of the problems.

That's like saying it is "racist" to arrest blacks for murder even though it is well known that half of all murders in the US are committed by the 12% of Americans who are black.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 03, 2013 @ 4:45 pm

All 'As' on the transcript and total immunity from any and all laws created by racist whites. Standards are racist!! Guarantee outcomes for everyone!!

Posted by The Goebblin Love Child of Smaug on Dec. 03, 2013 @ 5:15 pm

For any given situation, whine that it is much worse for people of color, women of color, children of color, janitors of color, hookers of color, gays of color, tenants of color.

And yet if you dare say "colored people" or "colored janitors" then a veritable shit-storm of allegations of racism will descend upon you.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 03, 2013 @ 5:33 pm

The sad truth is that while progressives claim they are interested in advancing equality with respect to opportunity, what they are really interested in is equality with respect to outcomes.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 03, 2013 @ 9:44 pm

outcomes then it doesn't even matter any more whether the opportunities are equal. You just adjust after the fact by punishing winners and rewarding losers.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 04, 2013 @ 7:03 am

Cue the increased flight to private schools...

Posted by racer さ on Dec. 03, 2013 @ 5:33 pm

neighborhood schools are not seen as a vast racist right-wing conspiracy.

SF's policy of race-based bussing may be the biggest reason to exit SFUSD, but it certainly isn't the only reason.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 03, 2013 @ 5:46 pm

"San Francisco's African American and Latino students together suffer 80 percent of willful defiance suspensions, according to SFUSD data."

Clearly, the solution is to randomly suspend white and Asian students, until their rate of suspensions is equal to the African American and Latino suspension rate.

Posted by racer さ on Dec. 03, 2013 @ 5:36 pm

of white grandmothers for gang-related activity. And ensure that their total innocence be held against them as an admission of guilt.

The left really shoots itself in the foot on race by refusing to tolerate anything bad ever happening to non-whites, even though non-whites commit the majority of crimes.

In SFBG-logic, white is bad and black is good, even though of course SFBG only ever hires white people.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 03, 2013 @ 5:44 pm

That's quite a leap buddy. I don't see anyone advocating for increased suspensions for anyone, but more positive solutions for all students.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 03, 2013 @ 6:49 pm

The real issue is this. Some kids act up at school and, for whatever reason, most of them are black and hispanic.

But then when we send them home, having applied the same consistent standard to all kids, the school gets accused of "racism" because most of those kids are black or hispanic.

So the tongue in cheek suggestion was to have "quota's" for white and asian kids to be sent home as well, not because they deserve it, but simply to preserve racial equity.

"Jimmy, why have you been sent home today? Did you behave badly"

"No, mom, but they sent home a black kid and so I took one for the team in the interests of ethnic justice.

Gotta love this city.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 03, 2013 @ 7:03 pm

""Jimmy, why have you been sent home today? Did you behave badly"

"No, mom, but they sent home a black kid and so I took one for the team in the interests of ethnic justice."

What better preparation for Jimmy's future life in San Francisco?

He needs to start getting abused for his "white privilege" early...

Posted by racer さ on Dec. 03, 2013 @ 7:29 pm

"The real issue is this. Some kids act up at school and, for whatever reason, most of them are black and hispanic"

Sounds like you and many other people posting comments didn't experience public school in San Francisco (and no I don't mean San Francisco Bay Area, I mean San Francisco itself). Nor have you ever experienced racial profiling. Regardless, the point is why should anyone be suspended for stupid reasons. How do these actions help students graduate or move on to the next grade? I have been through the public school system and when you enter High School with a class of nearly 400 and graduate with less then 100 of your peers, something is wrong. If you middle school needs to be reconstituted, something is wrong. What the SF Unified School District is allowing in these schools is WRONG.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 04, 2013 @ 9:30 am

then you will get no argument from me. That's why my kids are educated privately.

Nor do I particularly have a view on whether kids should be sent home or, instead or as well, given some other form of punishment. That is a matter I am happy to leave to the discretion of school officials and teacher.

HOWEVER, insofar as there are some behaviors that are best handled by sending a kid home, such as disrupting the whole class, then I do not see the value of noting the race of such children. They are being sent home for being bad, not for being black or white.

The same standard should apply consistently and, if the result is that 90% of the kids being sent home are white or Asian, so be it.

There is no racial profiling. That is what the black activists want you to think to justify having a lighter more lenient standard based on skin color. AKA playing the race card.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 04, 2013 @ 9:49 am

Progressives are fundamentally incapable of treating people equally. Sure their racism is framed as "meeting the unique cultural needs of minorities" or "correcting historic injustices" but at the end of the day, it's just more unequal treatment based on the amount of melanin in a person's skin.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 03, 2013 @ 9:34 pm
Posted by Guest on Dec. 04, 2013 @ 7:01 am

For a story that seems to indicate that Blacks AND Latinos are disproportionally victimized, it appears that the suspensions suffered by Latinos (30%) correlate roughly to their percent of the population. Duh?!

Blacks ARE disporportionally suspended; there certainly needs to be examination there. However, that most SFUSD Black students come from poverty or the Projects, it really begs the quesiton of how much behavior leading to suspensions is the schools fault for trying to enforce an enviornment conducive to learning, and how much is there truely sociopathology within that sub-segment of Black culture.

BTW, the article doesn't describe the ethnic breakdown of teachers and administrators who are responsible for these suspensions (although one of the few examples (Desamuel?) said he was sent home by a Black principal). Maybe there is some inherent cultural or racial bias in administring. Will this be resolved by merely switching methods (suspensions to Restorative Circles), or would we be stepping on vested (Progressive) toes to suggest a more radical plan to hire/retain teachers mirroring ethnic makeup of these students?

I was appalled (struck?) by the "cupcake" story. Has the SFUSD never heard of 'progressive disciple', such as a warning, discussion, time-out, then suspension? If this truely was a one-off for Xohitl (sp), then it certainly sounds unjustified. However, I suspect that's not the whole story w/ Ms Cupcake. I suspect she's had plenty of prior run-ins, and this was the last straw. I just wonder though, if those cupcakes really were all by themselves as the story so innocently paints, how did Da Man find out she took them and suspend Our Ms Cupcake?

Does this negate the desire to further a program like Restorative Justice. I don't think so. But such thin examples suggest that this isn't all its cracked up to be.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 04, 2013 @ 9:56 am

why blacks act up more at school (and on the streets) has more complex causes. We might cite poverty, absent parents, peer group pressure, and a variety of social problems in the mix.

But my response is - so what? There are always reasons why someone acts out, and that is true whether it is a black gang member or a white investment banker who commits fraud.

Regardless, that doesn't change the fact that the school has to deal with the actual behavior, and they cannot give a pass to one kid because he is "poor" but then slap down another kid because he is "rich". That's no better than basing the decision on race.

Maybe society in general needs to address poverty. And maybe social workers etc. need to get involved. But on the day and in the classroom, the same standard must apply to all kids. If the poor black kids think they are immune, then things will be ten times worse.

To the other, I see no evidence that the teachers are biased. And I'd rather select teachers based on quality than a futile quota system to try and mirror some theoretical demographic breakdown.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 04, 2013 @ 10:12 am

... one of the things I'd loved to have touched on, but didn't get the room, was that the really complex solutions Mission High School found to combat stereotypes in its classrooms. It took a hard look at the race and ethnicity of the people underperforming, and adjusted its teaching and disciplinary practices in ways that bolstered those failing students.

So yes, they looked at color. And though kids of all color were misbehaving, some of the systems and the way they were set up to handle that by their very nature overly penalized certain kids over others. It wasn't a teacher's fault, or a students, it was just the system wasn't set up to handle certain cultural divides.

Once they started addressing those disparities head on, they revised the systems they used. I highly recommend checking out the Mother Jones articles on Mission High School for a really detailed look at how they turned that one particular school around. It's fascinating. It's only a smaller piece of the overall pie, which is why its so short in my article, but reading the Mother Jones pieces really gives an in-depth look about how changing policies and systems can help people bridge cultural divides that tend to engender mistrust and fear.

Its not really about saying "oh one kid came from a bad neighborhood so we'll be more lenient." That's not it at all. No one is being given a pass. Its just that instead of sending them back into those bad neighborhoods, they're being talked to and worked with to all come to a better understanding. Its the carrot, instead of the stick.

And its also about acknowledging that discipline is not always applied equally, not through the fault of people but through the design of the rules and what situations they apply to. So you redesign the discipline and you help all students. The numbers show that. The numbers prove that. No one get a pass, and everyone does better.

On a side note, my troll-y friends, I wonder if you realize that children will be reading this. Maybe dial down your hatred just for once, just a bit.

Posted by Joe Fitzgerald on Dec. 04, 2013 @ 4:45 pm

paragraph where you just couldn't resist descending into the usual reactionary "troll" this and "hate" that. There was nothing in my posts that a child could read and take ANY offence at. Zero hatred in anything I said - you just made that up as a cheap shot, and it's worthy of neither of you nor r SFBG.

To the substance of your post, I'm still a little uneasy where you say "Its just that instead of sending them back into those bad neighborhoods, they're being talked to and worked with to all come to a better understanding". What you're really saying is that the teachers there invest more effort in that poor troubled kid than the kids who do better.

Now that's fine if you think the role of a school is to divert resources from the good kids to the bad kids in an attempt to socially engineer equality. But some of us believe that educational institutes should be trying to achieve excellence, and that won't happen if the best teachers are so busy trying to save the low-grade kids that the smart kids get ignored.

There really is no way around the fact that we have to decide whether all our kids are equal. And if we believe that, then some should not be getting special treatment. Else we are going to turn schools into a social engineering exercize. And more parents will do what I did and take their kids out of the public schools because they are getting bored because the special needs kids are getting all the special treatment.

I'm still not buying what you're selling

Posted by Guest on Dec. 04, 2013 @ 5:18 pm

to write about "good kids" and "bad kids," then "low-grade kids" and "smart kids."

So you, someone who claims to send his kids to private school, gets to label children and be an expert on public school discipline. I'm certainly not buying that.

You are so filled with prejudice and hatred that you can't even recognize it in yourself. Thankfully, overworked and underpaid committed SFUSD teachers don't share your myopia and are trying to educate all children in a climate of cutbacks and anti-public school and teacher propaganda.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 04, 2013 @ 5:43 pm

used them i.e. the "bad" kids are the ones who act out and get sent home. No hate there, not even close. It's just the reality that Joe described.

Joe is arguing for unequal treatment in schools and that the "squeaky wheels" there get special treatment. I am arguing for real equality - the least hateful position to take.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 04, 2013 @ 6:28 pm

Sorry I should clarify. I didn't mean the "troll" comment specifically to address your comment, just in general to the more hateful comments that surface on news sites (and the BG) in general. I respect an open dialogue.

To your point about helping the already achieving kids get better...

If we don't bring up everyone, we have a society that gets mired in crime, needs an abundance of welfare funding, and doesn't produce an active economy. Its in the best interest of our economy to have as many people contributing to it as possible. So if there are socio-economic factors contributing to the falter of the economy, its in our best interest to bring all the boats up together, you know?

Its not even about this kind hearted idea of helping those that need help, though that should matter too, but the bigger picture is, society gets better for everyone when less people suffer, because the flip side of that is that those we help will produce and contribute to our society as a whole. Help those in need, and you help everybody.

Again, lets point to a concrete example. Mission High School invested in their teachers, re-worked their rules to help those who were not performing as well, and with those modest changes, made over a long period of about ten years, they were able to turn around the performance of their long stagnating students.

It was not a herculean re-investment of funds, so no rich achieving kids in SFUSD were robbed, rather they made modest investments in helping teachers re-work their classes to appeal to everyone. I get the anger around divesting from kids who are achieving, but I think once you stop speaking in generalities and hone in on concrete specifics its more agreeable to all involved.

Posted by Joe Fitzgerald on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 11:37 am

"Now that's fine if you think the role of a school is to divert resources from the good kids to the bad kids in an attempt to socially engineer equality. But some of us believe that educational institutes should be trying to achieve excellence, and that won't happen if the best teachers are so busy trying to save the low-grade kids that the smart kids get ignored."

It's not about socially engineering equality. It's about giving more time and attention to kids with problems in order to solve the problems. That's what good teachers should be doing. In fact, that's what all professionals should be doing! Doctors should spend more time solving patients with more complicated problems than patients with simple ones. Auto mechanics should spend more time solving complicated problems than simple ones. You don't tell every person you deal with that you get only a certain allotment of time regardless of need. You spend the time that you need to do the job right. That's part of the job. Seems obvious to me.

Posted by Greg on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 4:45 pm

more time on the failing kids? And, by implication, less time on the more able?

IOW, you want to equalize everyone regardless of innate ability and aptitude. And that's a massive problem if you have smart kids who do not act out.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 4:52 pm

You and I think in very different ways. I don't understand the problem here.

When I was in school, I did very well. I didn't need any help. Others did. They needed tutors, remedial learning... some needed ESL and special ed. I didn't resent that more time was being spent on those kids, because I didn't need the extra time. I mean, this was just part of the job of the school system to help those more who needed it. Just like it's the job of the healthcare system to help sicker people more than healthy people. To run things any other way would be patently absurd.

Posted by Greg on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 9:57 pm

motivation and their essence. That's why they are here.

I haven't read a constructive suggestion about school discipline from any of them even though that was the point of the article. Instead, all we get is throw away lines about suspending white children to fulfill some sort of make believe quota and other similar detirus.

Thanks Joe for this article which brings attention to the struggles facing teachers, administrators and students of the SFUSD. For many San Francisco families, private school or moving to Marin is not an option.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 04, 2013 @ 5:18 pm
Posted by Guest on Dec. 04, 2013 @ 5:38 pm

Colored students of color should never be punished for anything, because racism.

Posted by Chromefields on Dec. 04, 2013 @ 10:30 am

"criminal of color" breaks the law, it is really the fault of whites for their centuries of subjugation?

I feel I sure I learned that during my political correctness 101 mandatory college classes.

Oh, and you cannot say "white" any more. It is either "non person of color" or "person of no color". (But not "non people of no color" because that is the same as a person of color. I think.)

Yours sanctimoniously,

Truth-teller of color.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 04, 2013 @ 10:49 am

It seems that San Francisco Unified School District staffers have capitulated to the truculent sieges of a few bad actors by classifying them as “vulnerable students” (those sub-categorized as “willful defiants”). The “racial disparity of suspension” phenomenon, is political taxonomy and is a false positive. This “if you can't beat'm—join'm” model portends advanced social pathiosis and American institutional decline.

Posted by Awayneramsey on Dec. 04, 2013 @ 1:54 pm

As an educator with SFUSD for over 30 years, I believe that we are all trying to do our best for ALL children. Part of that work is addressing underlying racial and cultural issues that impact all of us - in schools, in work, in the general public. General societal issues of stress, poverty, racism, unemployment, violence in the community, etc. - ALL impact our children. I believe that when you look dispassionately at DATA, you see that there have been issues with disproportionate suspensions. Yes, there are MANY factors - but we have to move forward in addressing those, and in looking out for the best interests of our students. The district is working both through Restorative Practices and other trainings with staff in coming up with alternative ways of working with, and responding to, issues with behavior in schools. There is a large Response to Intervention program/training that is focused specifically on behavior - that is in it's Second year of implementation, and shows promise of our educators coming up with large changes in addressing the behavior challenges in the schools. Every one of us needs to be open to looking at the racist/cultural attitudes that impact decisions made with children - at ourselves, at our classrooms, at historic assumptions, and at old practices that are NOT working. There is no simple fix for this. We must work at all levels: education of teachers/administrators; alternative methodology for dealing with behavior in classrooms; alternatives for suspension. As always, money is a factor - California continues to be one of the states with the lowest funding of schools in the US. Money doesn't 'fix' problems, but it's very helpful when you can adequately fund schools so there are lower class sizes, more counselors (who can actually have time to 'counsel'), more social workers, more school psychologists, and more funding for preventative, proactive programs.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 06, 2013 @ 10:03 am

Your job is to teach kids in a race-blind way, not introduce race into the classroom.

The kind of ugly political correctness and ideological posturing is exactly what is wrong with our school system.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 06, 2013 @ 11:12 am

As an educator with SFUSD for over 30 years, I believe that we are all trying to do our best for ALL children. Part of that work is addressing underlying racial and cultural issues that impact all of us - in schools, in work, in the general public. General societal issues of stress, poverty, racism, unemployment, violence in the community, etc. - ALL impact our children. I believe that when you look dispassionately at DATA, you see that there have been issues with disproportionate suspensions. Yes, there are MANY factors - but we have to move forward in addressing those, and in looking out for the best interests of our students. The district is working both through Restorative Practices and other trainings with staff in coming up with alternative ways of working with, and responding to, issues with behavior in schools. There is a large Response to Intervention program/training that is focused specifically on behavior - that is in it's Second year of implementation, and shows promise of our educators coming up with large changes in addressing the behavior challenges in the schools. Every one of us needs to be open to looking at the racist/cultural attitudes that impact decisions made with children - at ourselves, at our classrooms, at historic assumptions, and at old practices that are NOT working. There is no simple fix for this. We must work at all levels: education of teachers/administrators; alternative methodology for dealing with behavior in classrooms; alternatives for suspension. As always, money is a factor - California continues to be one of the states with the lowest funding of schools in the US. Money doesn't 'fix' problems, but it's very helpful when you can adequately fund schools so there are lower class sizes, more counselors (who can actually have time to 'counsel'), more social workers, more school psychologists, and more funding for preventative, proactive programs.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 06, 2013 @ 10:05 am

I am completely 100% behind restorative practices and have seen the impact they can have. However, the author made false claims in their "real" life examples so I hope no one takes these "stories" as absolute truth.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 06, 2013 @ 1:20 pm

My kids don't need restoring.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 06, 2013 @ 1:35 pm

Hopefully everyone who posted here will be able to make it on Dec.10 and talk face to face. I looked forward to meeting and speaking with you.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 08, 2013 @ 12:42 am

The point is to take away suspensions and replace them with restorative practices. Our youth are going to prisons by the bus load and it starts with their education being taken away from them through suspensions. If we learn to heal the at risk youth at the root cause instead if pushing them out we will have a better graduation rate for brown and black students and we will begin to establish the equality between every color student in schools. Suspensions must go and we must teach the teachers and school systems that we can not give up on a child due to behavior issues. We need to heal these children through the education. If a teacher can't handle a student who needs support then why be a teacher. I support the Solutions nit Suspensions campaign and I know it will save our youth from becoming more statistics in the school to prison pipeline. Especially because most of those youth are my black and brown brothers and sisters. We must stop the institutionalization of racism with our youth now! Stop kicking our youth out onto the streets while they should be in class. Si Se puede! And fuck any haters if you don't believe in solutions you're in the wrong. This campaign is going to pave the way for so much more education and justice reform and we will make positive changes through it to our communities and our world.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 05, 2014 @ 10:32 am
Posted by Guest on Feb. 05, 2014 @ 10:45 am

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