The suspension rate in LA Unified has fallen to 1.5 percent — an impressive drop from the 8.1 percent of the 2007-08 school year. The rate of decrease has been even more pronounced since John Deasy was appointed Superintendent in 2011. In his first full school year in charge, the suspension rate fell to 3.7 percent from 5.4 percent; in his second full year, it fell by more than half.
“It’s something that I moved really quickly on,” Deasy said. “I’ve placed an emphasis on it. We’ve tracked it school by school.”
The number of instructional days lost due to suspension began to drop before Deasy took over. In 2007, the school board passed the Discipline Foundation Policy, which aimed to lower suspensions by “using effective classroom management and positive behavior support strategies by providing early intervention for misconduct and appropriate use of consequences.”
But as he has on many fronts, Deasy has taken a more aggressive approach to lowering suspensions.
“Dr. Deasy has been very diligent on conducting performance dialogues with instructional superintendents and looking at data,” said Zsuzsanna Vincenze, Director of School Operations. “It’s been very data driven.”
In 2011-12, nearly half of all suspensions were for “willful defiance,” essentially failing to obey an order by a teacher, such as refusing to spit out gum or turn off a cell phone.
But in May, the board voted, 5-2, to stop suspending students for “willful defiance.” The two dissenting votes were cast my Marguerite LaMotte and Tamar Galatzan, who told LA School Report at the time, “I think that limiting the options for schools to deal with students who don’t listen, disrupt the class, don’t what to be there — it’s sending the wrong message, and it’s not fair to students who are there to learn.”
As a result of the vote, the new district policy is expected to lower the suspension rate even more.
“I wouldn’t say nobody will ever be suspended,” said Vincenze. “But we do continue to reduce the rate of suspension and to look at the rate of disproportionate suspension.”
According to a U.S. Department of Education report released last year, black students in Los Angeles are suspended at a far higher rate than other students. “That gap,” said Deasy, “has closed dramatically.”
Previous posts: District Claims Reduced Suspensions; Why Galatzan Opposed End to “Willful Defiance” Suspensions; Suspension Rates Vary Widely Among Schools; LAUSD Suspensions: Not Great, but Not the Worst