Attendance managers need to take note of pending bills

Among a slew of bills pending in the Legislature related to how school administrators mete out student discipline are a handful that should be of particular importance to supervisors of child welfare and attendance programs.

Sacramento's interest in school suspension and expulsion policies spiked earlier this year after a report from the U.S. Department of Education found black students in many districts across the nation were far more likely to be sent home from school for conduct violations.

The federal civil rights unit also reported reliance on the sanctions in California schools has been among the highest in the nation - nearly 770,000 were recorded in 2009-10.

While much of the pending legislation is aimed at restricting suspensions and expulsions, lawmakers have other issues as well.

One bill to keep an eye on is AB 1573 by Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, D-Oak Park - which deals with the residency requirements of foster children.

Under her bill, foster children who remain in their school of origin would meet the residency requirement for attendance in that school district.

Currently, all students are required to attend a school district in which their parent or guardian resides, unless exempted under law. Legislation approved in 2010 extended the right of foster youth to remain in their school of origin for the duration of the jurisdiction of the court. This bill confirms the statutes, to ensure inconsistencies in the Education Code do not lead to confusion and misinterpretation.

Another important bill likely to move ahead is SB 1235 by Senate leader Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento. His bill would impose new limits on the use of student suspension beginning with the 2013-14 instructional year.

The legislation requires any school that has suspended more than 25 percent of their enrollment - or 25 percent of any numerically significant pupil subgroup - to implement an evidence-based system of positive behavioral interventions for improving the site's academic and social climate.

As proposed, schools with a 25 percent suspension rate are required to perform the intervention. In 2013-14, the intervention is triggered at a 23 percent suspension rate with the percentage continuing to decline until schools are suspending no more than 15 percent of any significant pupil subgroup.

AB 1729 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, creates a new pathway for the use of alternatives to suspension and expulsion.

His bill calls on principals that use alternative methods to ensure the discipline is age-appropriate and designed to address or correct the pupil's specific misbehavior. The bill requires other means of correction - for the purposes of suspension - to be documented and to provide for other options such as parent conferences or referral to the school's counselors or district psychologist.

AB 1732 by Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D- San Jose, would update a section of the education code listing offenses for which a student can be suspended or expelled from school to include the so-called Facebook burn page.'

Her bill would add social media posts, false profiles and burn pages' to the list of electronic acts that could lead to a student being kicked out of school. Messages, texts, and sounds and images of a threatening or harassing nature already are included.

Other bills of interest:

- AB 2032 by Assemblyman Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, seeks to impose consistency in student discipline policies among charter schools. If approved, the bill would require charters to have a list of acts for which enrolled pupils must be suspended or expelled, as well as clear procedures on the use of the discipline and sanction terms.

- AB 2242 by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, addresses the overuse" of out-of-school suspensions for minor offenses. According to the author, the bill would limit punishment of incidents of 'willful defiance' to in-school suspensions with appropriate instruction and access to existing mental health providers.

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