Katie's Blog

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Suspension and Expulsion, in Preschool

suspension and expulsion
Kicking young people out of school for misbehaving is nothing new, but it is an issue that requires consideration. The science tells us that removing kids, of all ages, from classrooms for minor infractions can start them on a path toward further problems. The school-to-prison pipeline begins with suspension and expulsion.

While most people associate class removals with high school students, it’s also a common occurrence at middle schools, elementary, and preschools. If you find it hard to believe that preschoolers could do anything so severe as to warrant suspension or expulsion, then you are not alone. However, the practice is far more common than you’d probably think.

A 2016 federal study found that an estimated 50,000 preschoolers had been suspended in the previous year, according to the Center for American Progress. Moreover, some 17,000 preschoolers were expelled during the same period. That is 250 youngsters who were being removed from the classroom each day.

Actions have been taken by lawmakers and school officials to end the practice of suspending and expelling the youngest Americans in recent years. California has banned suspending children in grades K-3 for disrupting or willful defiance. Lawmakers have passed legislation that would expand the existing law to include students up to 8th grade. Unfortunately, many young children residing in other states do not have the same protections.

Suspension and Expulsion in Preschool


Even in states that have protections for young people, that encourage schools to intervene rather than expel, a significant number of kids are falling through the cracks. NBC News reports that children under five are being suspended and expelled from preschool, even though they live in cities and states that have acted to prevent such occurrences.

A study conducted in 2005 shows that preschoolers are three times more likely to be expelled. The numbers are even more severe when looking at young people of color and those with disabilities. Another study shows that kids who are removed from classrooms are ten times more likely to drop out of high school. They are at more significant risk of being arrested too.

Laws prohibiting the suspension and expulsion of young people are a step in the right direction. However, not enough is being done to train teachers and fund intervention programs, according to the article. Cemeré James, senior vice president of policy for the National Black Child Development Institute, said:

“When you institute a ban and just a ban with no funds and no support for implementation, you in my opinion are basically doing nothing. If there’s no funding to train teachers and educators to engage with young children in new and different ways, then you’re not changing anything.” 

Teachers must be taught effective techniques for supporting young people. Acting out in class is often a sign that a child is having problems at home or is struggling with emotional and cognitive issues. California has more resources than the vast majority of states and can provide resources to preschools, the article reports. Mental health professionals work with educators to help them better meet the needs of challenging students. 

Orange County School Expulsion Attorney


Attorney Katie Walsh has extensive experience in school discipline matters. If your son or daughter is facing the prospect of expulsion, then it helps to have a representative who can advocate for your loved one’s well-being. Please contact The Law Offices of Katie Walsh to learn how we can help you negotiate alternatives to expulsion.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

California CROWN Act Addresses Hairstyle Discrimination

CROWN Act
Research suggests that corporate and academic grooming policies unfairly impact Black women in the workplace. Dove and the Crown Coalition, a group of beauty industry leaders, civil rights activists and legislators, sponsored a survey to learn more about discrimination relating to hairstyles. 

The survey shows that black women receive formal grooming policies at a rate significantly higher than White women, according to Diverse. Black women also reported they were 80 percent more likely to change their natural hair to meet social or employment expectations.

An earlier study from 2016, conducted by Ohio State University's Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, discovered that Black girls were disciplined in the state's public schools because of their natural hairstyles. Meaning that black girls are often threatened with suspension and expulsion because schools contend that the student's hair is a disruption.

The authors of the Ohio study write that the disturbing trend "is deeply connected to long-standing Westernized notions of beauty…yet again, this highlights the ways in which Black girls are penalized for their incongruity with 'traditional' White notions of womanhood."

California’s CROWN Act


The hairstyles of Black people are a part of their heritage; and, it's hard to believe that young girls and women are punished for their natural hair in the 21st Century. In an attempt to reduce instances of discrimination in California, lawmakers passed the CROWN Act (“Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair”).

The Creating a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair or Senate Bill 188 is meant to combat discrimination based on hairstyles. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the bill into law on July 3.

The law prohibits employers from enforcing purportedly "race-neutral" grooming policies. The legislation was sponsored by State Sen. Holly Mitchell, who also wears her hair in locks. An author of the Ohio study titled "Race Matters . . . And So Does Gender," Robin A. Wright from the University of Cincinnati, says:

"I actually hear it more from young men, particularly, but also women, that they believe they have to cut off their dreads in order to get a job in corporate America." She adds that "It's ridiculous that we need a law like this in 2019, but our kids and [other] folks are still being discriminated against." 

California is at the top of the list of progressive states, so it makes sense that it is the first state to pass this type of legislation. However, New York approved a similar bill earlier this year, which protects Black people's right to wear natural hairstyles.

Many nonprofits support the CROWN Act, and state and national organizations, including the California Employment Lawyers Association, California School Board Association, and the California Teachers Association. According to RadioFacts: "SB 188 will ensure protection against discrimination based on hairstyles by extending statutory protection to hair texture and protective styles in the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and the California Education Code."

California School Discipline Attorney


Please contact The Law Office of Katie Walsh if your child is being discriminated against because of their hairstyle, and may be facing suspension or expulsion. Attorney Walsh has the experience to advocate for your loved one effectively.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Restorative Justice Funding in California

restorative justice
Restorative justice is on the minds of educators in California who seek to reduce student suspensions and expulsions. The goal is to keep youths in the classroom whenever it is possible to do so—the days of removing kids from class for disruption and defiance seem to be largely a thing of the past.

Many large school districts up and down the state have histories of disproportionately suspending and expelling minorities and youths with learning disabilities. The data reveals that such demographics are removed from class at exponentially higher rates than their white counterparts.

Several legislative reforms have led educators to adopt new approaches to dealing with students who act up or get in trouble. Programs were established in the Oakland, Los Angeles, and San Diego Unified School Districts that utilize alternatives to traditional methods of school discipline.

In 2006, the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) became the first to implement a restorative justice program, EdSource reports. Restorative justice coordinators and facilitators work with teachers and students to resolve conflicts in a manner that does not involve removing children from school. The program has served as a model for other school districts across the country and other countries.

Naturally, programs like the one in Oakland and others cost a significant amount of money to facilitate. Recent budget cuts may undermine the effectiveness of Oakland's restorative justice program or jeopardize it altogether.

Funding Restorative Justice


"In recent years, OUSD has made significant strides in changing the prevailing paradigm of punishment and exclusion in response to real or perceived student misconduct," states a report from the Executive Office of the President - December 2016. "These gains reflect deep structural changes at both the district and school site level resulting from more positive, restorative and trauma-informed responses to student behavior."

The OUSD program's future was put in jeopardy due to the school district's proposed budget cuts announced earlier this year. Fortunately, the program's achievements have not gone unnoticed, and the city and private backers have stepped lend support. State data shows that suspensions fell in Oakland by 48 percent between the 2011-12 and 2017-18 school years.

The city of Oakland issued a one-time $690,000 grant to fund the program for the 2019-20 school year, according to the article. Various foundations and philanthropists have also contributed to the effort.

There are no guarantees the program will be funded in the future, says David Yusem, Oakland Unified's restorative justice coordinator. He adds that "We need to make adjustments based on the current fiscal reality." Yusem points out that the program may need to be altered to compensate for funding cuts.

"We are just beginning to have those meetings," Yusem said. "We're taking stock and sort of going from there in terms of where are our priorities and how we can hit them while having less money."

It's likely that Los Angeles and San Diego Unified School Districts will face similar challenges in the coming years.

California School Discipline Attorney


If your child is facing difficulties at school and is at risk of expulsion, then please contact the Law Office of Katie Walsh. Juvenile Defense attorney Walsh can represent your child in many ways and advocate for the needs of your family.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Reducing Suspension and Expulsion Rates

suspension expulsion
At high schools across America, suspension and expulsion should only be a last resort. Young people who act up in class or break school policies are often dealing with problems at home. They may also be contending with emotional and mental health problems that inhibit their ability to stay focused.

When school districts remove children from the classroom, it can put teens on a path toward more significant problems in the future. No longer receiving support from educators, suspended and expelled youths are at considerable risk of engaging in activities that can land them in handcuffs. Student's removals are the beginning of the school-to-prison pipeline.

School districts that take measures to keep youths in class have an opportunity to affect change. Helping students understand why their behavior is problematic, and what they can do to cope with their feelings, is essential. When young people are given the tools to respond to situations in healthy ways, they are less likely to get into more trouble down the road.

Many U.S. schools are moving away from resorting to using punitive disciplinary actions. Research shows that student bodies benefit from providing support programs. Providing teenagers access to counselors and psychologists is a step towards reducing problems in the classroom. The data indicates that intervention programs are more effective at encouraging adolescents to change their behavior than removing them from class.

Intervention Programs Reduce Suspension and Expulsion Rates


The Antelope Valley Union High School District in northern Los Angeles County has taken steps in reducing class removals. In the last decade, the district’s suspension rate fell 47%, and the expulsion rate dropped 79%, according to the Antelope Valley Press. Educators were able to achieve this feat by implementing intervention programs.

Instead of resorting to suspension and expulsion, schools attempt to address the unique needs of students first. When a teenage boy or girl gets in trouble, the AVUHSD relies on a discipline matrix to help determine what level of intervention is warranted. The district had student support centers, and four social workers were hired to work with at-risk youths.

Youths who are directed to AVUHSD support centers, work with counselors, psychologists, and social workers. They have opportunities to discuss what is happening outside of school; they can learn coping mechanisms that are less disruptive to the class. The goal is to help at-risk teens learn from their mistakes and excel.

“When a student has to be removed from class they are placed in an environment where their social and emotional needs are met,” said a district official said. “The goal is addressing it and getting them back in the classroom.” 

Support centers have paid off; from 2017-18 to 2018-19, suspensions decreased 13% and expulsions 31%.

Orange County Juvenile Attorney


If your son or daughter is in trouble at school, and facing a school expulsion hearing, The Law Offices of Katie Walsh can help. It is vital to have an attorney who can advocate for your family. Juvenile defender Katie Walsh as a school expulsion lawyer has handled thousands of cases and may be able to negotiate alternatives to expulsion.

Please contact our office today for a free consultation. Call Today 714 · 619 · 9355

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Grant Funds Youth Diversion Efforts in California

juvenile justice
In 2017, the Santa Barbara County Probation Department began an internal investigation and data mining project. The goal was to determine if there could be policy and practice reforms that might benefit at-risk youths and keep them out of the juvenile justice system, The Santa Maria Sun reports. A comparison of county data revealed that children in Santa Barbara County were being detained and supervised by probation at higher rates than those in similar counties.

A large percentage of children who find themselves in the juvenile justice system have a history of mental illness and behavioral health problems. Such youths often have trauma resulting from abuse. However, many of these young people are not a threat to public safety.

Some experts believe that detaining adolescents with mental health problems is not the answer. Youths benefit from programs that emphasize therapy rather than detention.

This spring, the Santa Barbara County Probation Department was among 16 organizations from across the nation that received specialized diversion training.

Grant Funds Youth Diversion Efforts


The California Board of State and Community Corrections is awarding the Probation Department with a four-year $795,000 Youth Reinvestment Grant, according to the article. The funds will enable Santa Barbara County to offer struggling juveniles diversion programs at no cost to families.

“It’s an exciting opportunity and sits in very well with all the other initiatives we’ve been rolling out since the data mining,” said Holly Benton, Santa Barbara County’s deputy chief probation officer. 

Young people with mental health and substance use problems do not belong behind bars. Offering evidence-based therapies and support in school to kids who are struggling will pay off in the long run. Those in the juvenile justice system are far more likely to be in the adult criminal justice system one day.

Benton points out that one of the reasons diversion programs have had limited success is due to money. Typically, parents are expected to cover the cost when their children are eligible for diversion. Being able to offer mental health and family counseling at no cost could significantly improve success rates.

The Probation Department will work closely with the Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (CADA), law enforcement, schools, and community members. Some of the grant money will fund a UC Santa Barbara study to assess which programs are reducing recidivism rates.

Santa Barbara’s new diversion program will likely begin sometime in the fall.

Orange County Juvenile Defense Lawyer


If your child is facing legal difficulties or school expulsion, then please contact The Law Offices of Katie Walsh. As a former prosecutor, attorney Walsh is uniquely equipped to advocate for the needs of your family and help bring about a favorable outcome.

Call juvenile defense attorney Katie Walsh at 714.619.9355 today to learn more.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Appeals Court Upholds SB 1391

SB 1391
In May, we wrote about the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco rejecting Solano County’s challenge to Senate Bill 1391. At the time, we pointed out that California counties would likely continue to take issue with this controversial piece of legislation.

For those who don’t know, SB 1391 bars prosecutors from trying 14- and 15-year-olds as adults. The bill is part of a broad effort across the state to place a greater emphasis on rehabilitation for young people on the wrong side of the law.

Last week, advocates of SB 1391 received another victory when a state appeals court in Sacramento ruled the law is constitutional, The Sacramento Bee reports. The bill is meant to serve as an extension of the reforms laid out in 2016’s Proposition 57.

Naturally, many prosecutors across the state are unhappy with last Wednesday’s ruling. District attorneys and victim families are some of SB 1391’s staunchest opponents.

Next Stop, The California Supreme Court


“Senate Bill 1391 does not conflict with Proposition 57, but advances its stated intent and purpose to reduce the number of youths to be tried in adult court, reduce the number of incarcerated persons in state prisons, and emphasize rehabilitation for juveniles,” the appellate court wrote.

The decisions, in San Francisco last month and in Sacramento a week ago, to support the new legislation all but guarantees that the California Supreme Court will take up the matter. Much is at stake for both young defendants and the families who would like to see justice for their loved ones. 

“We have received the Court of Appeal’s decision and we are considering the option of further appellate relief,” said Sacramento County Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney Rod Norgaard. 

Before Prop. 57, prosecutors were permitted to charge 14- and 15-year-olds as adults in severe cases. Being tried in adult criminal court and being found guilty carries much longer sentences than what is handed down in juvenile court. SB 1391 prevents moving youths under 16 to adult court.

At the Law Offices of Katie Walsh, we will continue to follow this remarkable story as it develops.

Southern California Juvenile Defense Attorney


Attorney Katie Walsh’s experience, both as a former prosecutor and juvenile defense attorney, makes her uniquely equipped to advocate for your loved one. Please contact us today for a free consultation and to learn more about how we can help your family. (714) 619-9355

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

School Suspension Rates in Rural California

school suspension
The Bureau of Children’s Justice, a division of the state Attorney General’s Office, is tasked with protecting at-risk children. There are laws which are meant to protect vulnerable young people; it’s the Bureau’s job to enforce such protections. However, children fall through the cracks time and time again.

California school districts have a long history of suspending and expelling minorities and intellectually disabled children. Despite recent efforts to work with children who are having problems in school before resorting to punitive measures, many youths are suspended at alarming rates.

Black and Latino children are suspended and expelled at exceedingly higher rates than white kids in many school districts. This is true even when children of color make up only a slight fraction of the student body. Whether we are looking at high school or elementary school, the data does not lie—minorities bear the brunt of the discipline meted out by faculty.

An investigation is underway to determine why a rural California school district is suspending students at an exponentially higher rate than the statewide average, EdSource reports. A report shows that Butte County’s Oroville City Elementary School District’s suspension rate is three times higher than average in California.

Alarming Suspension Rates in California


Oroville City (pop. 229,294), just north of Sacramento, is the seat of Butte County. Oroville City Elementary suspended 12 percent of its students during the 2017-18 school year, according to the article. However, only four (4) percent of students in public schools were suspended, at least once, across the entire state.

Although black students make up only three percent of the district’s enrollment, they are suspended far more often than their white classmates. An EdSource analysis of the data shows that black students were suspended 70 percent more often than their white students at Oroville City Elementary. Moreover, black kids were suspended two times more often as white children at Ishi Hills Middle School.

During the 2016-17 school year, students in the district were out of school more often due to suspension than virtually all other students in the state, according to the UCLA Center for Civil Rights Remedies.

“I’m glad the attorney general is paying attention to both the high rates and large racial disparities,” said Daniel Losen, the director of the UCLA center and author of the organization’s suspension report. “There is a lot districts can do to lower suspension rates without jeopardizing the learning environment.” 

The statistics are troubling for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that laws prohibit suspending K-3 students for being disruptive. Senate Bill 419 was introduced this year to expand those protections to grades 4 to 8. Whenever young people are not in a classroom, they are put at significant risk of getting into more trouble. The school-to-prison pipeline begins with suspension and expulsion.

Orange County School Discipline Attorney


If your child is facing expulsion from his or her school, then it is vital that you turn to an expert for guidance. Former prosecutor Katie Walsh has an extensive amount of experience advocating for young people who face problems at school. Please contact us today to learn how Attorney Walsh can help your child with their school expulsion hearing.