The so-called “school-to-prison pipeline” is a topic on many people’s minds in California. The subject is also the focus of specific laws that help avoid trapping young people in the criminal justice system; such legislation is part of a broader effort to reduce the California prison population. Seeing as many adolescents start running into problems with authority in high school, it is of value to discuss some of the difficulties that educators say they are facing in the wake of Sanders v. Kern High School District (KHSD).
It is fair to say that teenagers do not belong in adult prison systems, nor should they be expelled from school for minor infractions. However, over the years both scenarios have been a reality for many young people, especially minorities. Sanders v. KHSD, was a suit levied by the Dolores Huerta Foundation, Faith in the Valley, the National Brotherhood Foundation, and others alleging that minorities were suspended and expelled at higher rates than their white students.
Teachers in Kern County have found it difficult to rein in students of late, which they place partial blame on Sanders v. KHSD, Bakersfield.com reports. A number of teachers are targets of physical and verbal assault since the district began implementing a Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) model.
PBIS and Willful Defiance
Is it possible that students, knowing they face lesser penalties for their actions, are emboldened? This year, at least ten teachers at KHSD campuses have become victims of assault, according to the article. While Sanders v KHSD may have a hand in the recent spate of abuses, there are other factors to consider. Restorative justice programs aim to get to the source of a student’s problem rather than resort to immediate suspension or expulsion. Students acting out are taken out of class and talk out their issues with trained staff. Some educators contend that PBIS allows students to continue behaving badly as they are without real punishment “helping breed a culture of misbehavior.”
Another change in recent years that could play a part in student unruliness is how schools now handle “willful defiance,” a category used to describe non-violent misbehavior in class. A bill was passed making it illegal to suspend students for willful defiance which Bakersfield High School Principal David Reese says is the real source of the problem, not PBIS, the article reports.
“It’s out of frustration of changes to the law about willful defiance, and it’s not a BHS problem or a KHSD problem. This is a frustration that crosses California and the nation as research has come in that shows suspending kids ‘willy-nilly’ for disruption of school activities or defiance needs to be clarified,” Reese said.
Juvenile Defense Attorney
At the Law Offices of Katie Walsh, we specialize in juvenile law, including school discipline. If your son or daughter is facing criminal charges, Attorney Walsh can assist you and your family in several ways. Please contact our office for a free consultation.