California kids are staying in class and off the streets, according to a study released last week from the UCLA Civil Rights Project. In fact, two-thirds of all K-12 districts in the state reported suspension decreases for every racial group — with the largest drop among blacks and Hispanics — which may indicate a consistent downward trend, though experts say it’s too soon to tell.
The Santa Barbara Unified School District suspended 678 students in 2013, a 10 percent drop from the previous year, according to the study. The most notable results can be seen at Santa Barbara Junior High School (SBJHS), said Aaron Harkey, a teacher on special assignment, at a recent board meeting. The school piloted the new discipline program called Restorative Approaches in 2012. In the 2012-2013 school year, there were 60 suspensions at SBJHS, which is approximately half the number from the previous year and a 74 percent decrease from the annual average over the past four years. Of the 60 suspensions, 38 were Hispanic students, which is a 23 percent decrease from the previous year.
The UCLA study coincides with school districts’ finalization of the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP), which documents goals and expenditure justifications for the next three years. At Tuesday night’s board meeting, applause rang in the board’s approval of the revised LCAP. Among a long list of goals, the district seeks to decrease suspension rates by 5 percent each year and spend $30,000 in training staff in Restorative Approaches. In the fall, restorative approaches will be implemented at Dos Pueblos and San Marcos high schools.
Also Tuesday, the board approved a $106 million budget, which should increase by several million dollars over the next seven years. Notably, the district is just shy of receiving an additional half a million dollars because its unduplicated pupil count of low-income, foster youth, or English learners is currently 54 percent; more than 55 percent is required by the state to collect the extra funds.