School Discipline Reform in Los Angeles and Massachusetts

Posted by Kyrei Miller
September 20, 2013

The school-to-prison pipeline is a disturbing shift affecting many youths today.  Zero tolerance policies continue to funnel kids from public schools into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.  We are glad to see that Massachusetts and Los Angeles are leading the way to a less punitive and more holistic approach to school discipline and truancy.

Los Angeles County recently joined the “I’m In” campaign, an initiative that began a year ago and includes 25 districts in Los Angeles County. The “I’m In” campaign concentrates on rewarding students who attend school over punishing them for skipping school.  The campaign also encourages school districts to refer truant youths to counselors or social service agents rather than suspending them or issuing a citation.  There have been many improvements attributed to the campaign such as the 55% decrease in the number of citations given to students for truancy.  The district also has a mentoring program for high school students that provide incentives to encourage perfect attendance.

In Massachusetts, Gov. Deval Patrick signed the Chapter 222 legislation over a year ago requiring districts to revise their Codes of Conduct to issue suspension and expulsions only as a last result. Boston Public Schools (BPS) became the first district in the state to adopt a new code of conduct a year in advance and there has been a significant drop in suspensions and expulsions. The BPS code of conduct requires alternatives such as restorative justice practices and services for students excluded from school.  Tom Mela, Senior Project Director with Massachusetts Advocates states:

"The new Code of Conduct, issued a year earlier than required by Chapter 222, demonstrates educator support for its school discipline reforms. It paves the way for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to issue broad implementing regulations and for other school districts to adopt comprehensive code revisions”

Los Angeles County and Massachusetts have demonstrated that there are substantial efforts being made to keep kids in school and out of prison.