The emergence and rapid spread of COVID-19 brought seismic changes that closed businesses and schools across the country. Without the ability to teach in person, educators scrambled to find creative ways to conduct classes online. The switch to online learning caused unique stresses among teachers, students and families.
Educators and policymakers have predominantly focused their efforts on finding solutions for providing remote instruction, helping students who lack access to the technology necessary to learn online, and all the other essential community services schools typically provide. Unfortunately, any meaningful discussion about COVID-19’s effects on school discipline has largely fallen by the wayside.
School Discipline in the COVID-19 Era
Under typical circumstances, most infractions that constitute grounds for expulsion involve behavior that takes place on school property – such as using tobacco products on campus or bringing a weapon to class. However, despite the switch to a virtual environment, where on-campus rule violations are impossible, some schools and school districts still require students to serve suspensions and expulsions.
For example, one fourth-grader in Louisiana faced expulsion after his teacher noticed a BB gun in his room during online class. The school later amended the expulsion to a six-day suspension after the family’s attorney successfully argued that events taking place in a private home are different from those that happen on campus, and that school policies needed an update to reflect that.
Are We Overdue to Reform School Disciplinary Measures?
Controversy about school discipline was prevalent even before the pandemic forced students, teachers and parents to adapt to distance learning. For example, a 2020 report from the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the UCLA Civil Rights Project and the Learning Policy Institute found that K-12 students from coast to coast missed out on a total of 11 million instructional days in a single academic year due to out-of-school suspension.
The same report highlighted alarming racial disparities in school suspension data, pointing to the fact that students of color miss significantly more instructional days due to suspensions than their white classmates. This phenomenon occurs nationwide, suggesting the need for reform. Citing the adverse effects of school push-outs on students, a coalition of organizations wrote a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom in April 2020 to request that he issue a moratorium on school expulsions during the pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has spotlighted the need to reevaluate a host of societal issues, from our health care system to our work/life balance. Perhaps the additional attention paid to school discipline during virtual learning will lead officials to rethink their outdated suspension and expulsion policies, with a specific focus on how these disciplinary methods impact some of the most vulnerable students.
What to Do If Your Student Faces Expulsion
In California, your student may be subject to expulsion for making an impulsive adolescent decision. At the Law Offices of Katie Walsh, we help families avoid disciplinary actions that could have far-reaching repercussions on their child’s future. As a former prosecutor, Katie Walsh has handled thousands of juvenile cases. If you need the expertise of a knowledgeable Southern California school expulsion attorney, contact us today to schedule a free, confidential consultation.