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Press Center | SDSU | SDSU researchers inform new law protecting youth placed in exclusionary discipline

Recently passed AB 740 codifies the recommendation of a 2021 report showing a disproportionate rate of suspensions faced by black youth in foster care.

Young people in foster care in California schools will no longer face exclusionary discipline with no advocate in their corner under legislation inspired by education researchers at San Diego State University and their conclusions about the inequalities faced by black students.

Signed last month by the Governor of California Gavin Newsom, Assembly Bill 740 requires foster students to be supported by a court-appointed attorney and/or social worker when facing disciplinary proceedings for exclusion. The requirement creates a structure equivalent to that which exists for unplaced young people, who may have parents or guardians involved in the disciplinary process.

Exclusionary discipline employed by schools includes suspensions, expulsions, and limitations on extracurricular activities – even the use of physical restraints and isolations.

“When I talk to most people and tell them what the bill does, their reaction is, ‘Wasn’t that already a law?’ Because I think the assumption is that it should have been already,” said J. Luke WoodDean’s Emeritus Professor of Education at SDSU, and a former foster child himself.

“It’s a systemic issue and this small change can have a big impact.”

Suspend our future

The bill stemmed from a recommendation made in “Suspending Our Future: How Unfair Disciplinary Practices Disenfranchise Black Children in California Public Schools”, which was published in 2021 by the Black Minds Matter Coalition (BMMC) — a group of researchers focused on improving the experience of black children and youth in school.

Co-authors of the SDSU-affiliated report included Wood; Frank Harris IIIProfessor and Acting Associate Dean for Diversity at the College of Education; Idara Essien, Assistant Professor of Child and Family Development; and doctoral student Mohammad Qas. The other co-authors were Professor UCLA Tyrone Howard, President of the San Diego College of Continuing Education Tina Kingand Valentin Escanuela from the San Diego County Office of Education.

The report found that black students are significantly overrepresented in both the homestay youth population and among students exposed to exclusionary discipline. Black youth in foster care were found to be 523% more likely to be suspended than their peers.

“A lot of young people are in foster care because they’ve encountered significant challenges in one way or another,” Wood said. “The last thing we want to do is continue this abuse by leaving a child in an unhealthy environment because educators aren’t doing something as simple as checking in with someone who is a constant in their lives.

“It’s about making sure our schools provide dignity for our black people and our young adoptees.”

Member of the Assembly Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) followed the report’s recommendation and passed the bill, with BMMC as the lead co-sponsor. AB 740 passed the State Assembly and Senate without serious opposition.

“After completing the research and the report and seeing what we’ve seen over the past five years, this change is a relief and we’re very excited about it,” Essien said. “I think it’s extremely important to have so many people around the table for this community.”

Create a better experience

For Wood, the change is particularly significant. He said he and his brothers were exposed to significant exclusionary discipline as young students due to perceptions made about their race and the stigma associated with being in the foster system.

“It was something very dear to me,” he said. “We want to create a situation where kids won’t experience those same kinds of challenges.”

The hope is that AB 740 will help disrupt the school-to-jail pipeline, a phenomenon that describes the systemic push of students — especially students of color — out of school and into justice systems. juvenile and criminal. For the Black Minds Matter Coalition, this is just the beginning.

“We’re trying to create a better experience for students who are the most disgruntled in society and, unfortunately, the most underserved in school,” Wood said. “This is not the last stop on this train. There is still much to do. Our next effort will focus on voluntary and involuntary transfers, which are used to quietly expel black students and accommodate children with little or no regular procedure.

The bill comes into force on January 1, 2023.

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