By Umair Vaid
Assembly Bill 420 was signed on September 27, 2014 by Governor Jerry Brown, making California the first state in the nation to enact a law that limits pupil suspensions and eliminates expulsions for minor misbehavior. The bill went into effect in January of this year.
Appropriately implementing AB 420 is not optional! We must reconsider how we prepare future generations for their careers. Which is why we need solutions, not suspensions.
It’s about time that the California school system stop suspending more students than it’s actually graduating. The future of today’s youth is in our hands, and it only takes one person to change the system – that one person is you.
The bill eliminates the authority to suspend a pupil enrolled in kindergarten or any grades 1 to 3, inclusive, and the authority to recommend for expulsion a pupil enrolled in kindergarten or any grades 1 to 12, inclusive, for disrupting school activities or otherwise willfully defying the valid authority of those school personnel engaged in the performance of their duties.
We have an incredible history of innovation behind us and we have a shot at an incredible future. But that future must include all our citizens – and it begins with the inclusion of all our children, not just the affluent ones.
Children who have been suspended are significantly more likely to become involved in the juvenile justice system, compared to their peers.
Psychologists have found that exclusionary practices can increase student shame, alienation, rejection, and the breaking of healthy adult bonds, contributing to poor mental health for young people. Our children can lead a future of phenomenal discovery, but here in the United States, we’re not preparing them to do so.
Furthermore, the strengthening of the economic security of our young people is being threatened by these heinous behaviors. Recently, a girl was suspended for utilizing a knife to cut her birthday cake; a male student was suspended for using a broken pocket- knife to clean his golf cleats; and a kindergarten student was suspended for making a paper gun.
Students were interviewed at a local Los Angeles high school and said that they not only want to succeed, but they want their peers to excel with them. They do not want an “at home staycation,” but instead, they want a counselor to talk to them and help them understand the magnitude of the respective situation, versus a flippant punishment of being sent home.
I’m proposing that along with monitoring the appropriate implementation process of AB 420, a social worker should be sent into each classroom for half a day in order to keep progress of teachers, and students, to ensure that our youth will have a healthy future.
I’m asking you, wake up, California! We need to cultivate the immense potential of today’s youth. Now is the time to protect the future sanity of this state.
Our youth deserve bright opportunities, and neither our ability nor our responsibility to give this to them should be questioned.
Hardworking parents the world over promise their children, “Your lives will be better than ours.” Do we want to be the generation that failed to deliver on that promise?
Umair Vaid is a dual degree MSW/MPH candidate at USC. He is passionate about advocacy and serving vulnerable populations, while bringing them social justice.