After months of discussion, the Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve a resolution that will require all district schools to submit a student discipline plan that focuses on rehabilitating problem students.
Except in extreme cases, instead of being suspended or expelled, students will be expected to make amends in the school community.
“If they’re not getting the love at home or at their schools, they’re going to get it on the streets, and that’s the last thing we should want our students to do,” said De’Anthony Jones, the District 5 youth commissioner and a senior at Mission High. During public comment he spoke strongly in favor of keeping the students in class and keeping them “close.”
Everyone who came up to the podium agreed that giving offenders the chance to redeem themselves is in the best interest of the entire community.
One student pointed out that a disproportionate number of Latino and African-American students are suspended or expelled each year. Another stressed that the students should be involved in brainstorming alternatives to the harsh punishments. Her ideas included community service in an organization that interests offenders, or mural projects for those who have vandalized schools with graffiti — anything other than simply picking up trash on the side of roads.
“I want to reiterate the importance … for the youth offender to have alternatives and to be held accountable in a means that they are able to learn and give back to their school community and to their peers,” said Nicole Brown, manager of Teen Court in the SF Peer Court system.
Last year, the district suspended about 300 middle school students a total of 1,446 times, a figure that alarmed administrators and prompted the push to create the resolution, according to the San Francisco School Alliance. Thus, the resolution will be implemented first in all middle schools and selected elementary and high schools.
Passing the resolution Tuesday was not completely without debate, however. The board went back and forth over nuances in the revised draft, and components they thought were too “prescriptive” in guiding principals. The final version left the language vague so principals can interpret the resolution based on individual circumstances.
Once passed, the audience applauded. President Kim-Shree Maufas assured the room that the one absent commissioner, Hydra Mendoza, had texted her support of the resolution earlier in the night.