Organizations call for easing harsh discipline rules at public schools

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Some education activists say public school discipline has grown too harsh in reaction to the deadly Columbine, Colorado high school shootings more than a decade ago.

Southern California activists are participating in a national effort this week to reform school discipline.

Barbara Raymond with the California Endowment says that most of last year’s 720,000 suspensions and expulsions at state public schools had nothing to do with violence, drugs or weapons.

"The vast majority of suspensions are for much lower level incidents," Raymond says, "things that we used to be kept, they would keep us after school, and now kids are being kicked out of school. So this is like misconduct, disruption in the classroom, something that in California we call 'willful defiance.'"

Suspensions, Raymond says, don’t provide the kinds of tools that students and teachers need to work through discipline problems. She says in some cases suspensions can discourage struggling students to the point that they decide to drop out.

Participating groups are organizing rallies in L.A., Fresno, Oakland and Sacramento to call on school districts and lawmakers to revamp their discipline policies.

Southern California Public Radio receives funding from the California Endowment.