Pilot Program to Reduce School Suspensions

California suspends too many students. In 2017, over 233,000 students were suspended at least once.  Combined, those same two hundred thousand students missed well over 1 million days of school.

As disturbing as these trends are, it may be surprising to know that figures from 2017 represent a significant improvement from just five years ago when the number of students suspended once was 36 percent higher. The two largest districts in the state Los Angeles Unified and San Diego Unified have seen student suspensions decrease overall by 76 percent and 44 percent in the same amount of time, marking considerable progress. Bellflower Unified, a much smaller Southern California district recently reported an 85% drop in suspensions after switching to a new positive discipline approach and increasing the presence of school counselors in elementary schools.

Students who are most likely to be suspended are overwhelmingly the most disadvantaged: homeless youth, kids in foster care, students with disabilities, Black young men and women, Native American youth, Pacific Islanders and Latino males. These are the students that the state has claimed it is most urgently trying to help with increased attention, academic support and funding.  A variety of studies have shown that suspensions not only contribute to lower levels of student achievement but are also ineffective at reducing perceived behavior problems among targeted students. Research shows that the problem is pervasive, affecting students from preschool to high school.

Current Work:

Pilot Program to Reduce School Suspensions

For the next five years, Orange and Butte counties, along with UCLA’s Center for the Transformation of Schools will launch a state pilot aimed at reducing suspensions through a training curriculum based on a multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) model.  MTSS is an approach being utilized in school districts throughout the country and in California that addresses learning and behavioral needs through a variety of non-punitive, educational interventions.

Funded by a $15-million grant that was part of the budget deal struck by Gov. Jerry Brown and the state Legislature in June, the pilot will emphasize a training, tools and interventions that have proven effective in addressing behavior problems and keeping kids in schools.  These include: restorative justice, social emotional learning, Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) and other alternatives that prioritize mediation and building healthy relationships over traditional punishments which have relied heavily on exclusion (i.e. suspensions).

The pilot will tackle the discipline problem and the over reliance on suspensions, ensuring that alternative strategies for improving school discipline are aligned with efforts to improve student learning outcomes with classroom teachers, school counselors, school psychologists and administrators.  Working with a variety of stakeholders, including students, we plan to design and implement training modules that will attempt to promote improved relationships with students by transforming the cultures of schools.

How to Get Involved

We are seeking individuals dedicated to improving school systems to join our design team. Interested applicants should complete the application no later than Monday, October 1, 2018. If you would like to participate, please complete an application here.

Working group members will be expected to participate in quarterly in-person meetings and video conferences over the course of the year. Participation is voluntary and travel-related expenses will be covered with prior approval by CTS, OCDE, and BCOE. Members selected for the state design team will be notified by October 2018.

If you have pertinent informative resources, research, files, or links that will inform our project in the areas listed below, please complete this form.

  • strategies for fostering positive school climate in both academic and behavioral areas
  • student engagement (affective, behavioral, cognitive)
  • positive behavior interventions and support
  • restorative practices
  • bullying prevention
  • social and emotional learning
  • trauma-informed practice
  • culturally responsive instruction
  • teaching and implicit bias