Students from throughout California and their supporters, noting inequities in school suspension policies, especially affecting LGBT youth and racial minorities, rallied this week in Sacramento for a legislative solution.
The group Fix School Discipline is urging Gov. Jerry Brown to sign a bill that would ban suspensions for students in the lower grades and promote alternatives to suspension in general. Activists with the organization say out-of-school suspensions have a negative effect on young people’s education and often lead to involvement with the juvenile justice system. About half the out-of-school suspensions in California are for “willful defiance,” which the group calls “a highly subjective category.”
LGBT-identified Orange County student Cheyenne, who spoke at Wednesday’s rally at the state capitol, said she was suspended for willful defiance after she defended a classmate against antigay bullying. “I heard some kids making fun of another classmate. They called him a ‘faggot,’ and that was deeply offensive and I told them so,” she said. “The kids were trying to brush off what I said and we all started arguing, louder and louder. I got angry, and I cursed.” Cheyenne, who is in foster care, ended up having “to beg for an in-school suspension” rather than an out-of-school one, as the latter could have caused her to lose her foster placement.
LGBT students are 1.4 times more likely to be suspended than others, black students four times more likely, and students with disabilities twice as likely, according to Fix School Discipline. Find out more about the group here.