Suspending & Expelling Preschoolers, SF District Attorney Says to End Capital Punishment, AG Eric Holder Says Juvenile Facilities Overuse Solitary ConfinementMay 15th, 2014 by Taylor Walker
SUSPENDING AND EXPELLING THREE AND FOUR-YEAR-OLDS…IN CALIFORNIA AND NATIONWIDE
Back in March, the Civil Rights division of the US Dept. of Education released a report on school discipline that revealed nearly 5,000 preschoolers were suspended in the 2011-2012 school year.
Many California school districts say they do not suspend or expel preschool-aged children, LAUSD included, but Yale professor Walter Gilliam discovered California schools are, indeed, suspending and expelling three and four-year-olds. In 2005, Gilliam conducted a national study that found California schools were expelling preschoolers at a rate of 7.5 per 1000 kids, a number higher than the national average.
KPCC’s Deepa Fernandes has the story. Here’s a clip:
In March, the U.S. Department of Education released statistics showing that 5,000 preschoolers nationwide were suspended at least once during the 2011-12 school year. Half of them were suspended more than once.
That’s not even the complete picture; those numbers only include children at public schools, not private preschools or home-run childcare centers…
And one national expert doubts the federal numbers are accurate, even for public-school-based programs.
Some of the largest school districts in California – Los Angeles, Santa Ana, Oakland, San Francisco – showed zero preschool expulsions in the 2011-2012 federal data, the first year the federal government required school districts to report it. The state doesn’t require school districts to break out expulsion reports by grade.
L.A. Unified school district has an unwritten policy against suspending or expelling preschoolers, said Maureen Diekman who runs the district’s early education programs.
“When there’s a child with challenging behavior, we work with the family and work to find out how best to meet that child’s individual needs,“ she said.
California Head Start officials also said they enlist the help of parents and guardians to curb behavior issues, rather than expel children.
Yale professor Walter Gilliam doesn’t believe that California’s preschools are not suspending or expelling kids. When he set out to conduct the first major national study on preschool expulsion in 2005, he said officials told him they had policies against it, too.
But when his research team surveyed teachers directly, they found that – whatever schools’ policies may be — teachers were indeed asking problem preschoolers to leave. Often.
“Pre-kindergarten children were being expelled at [a] rate well over three times that of K through 12 combined,” he said.
In California, the expulsion rate was 7.5 children per thousand preschoolers, well above the national average of 6.7 per thousand. That made it the 16th highest state in the nation for preschool expulsion rates.
And, just like in upper grades, both Gilliam’s study and the new federal data show suspension rates are higher for African-American children than students of other races – even in preschool.
For 2011-2012, the federal data shows half of the preschool children suspended were black, even though black children made up only 18 percent of all preschoolers.
SF DISTRICT ATTORNEY (AND FORMER ASSISTANT CHIEF OF LAPD) SAYS TO ABOLISH THE DEATH PENALTY
In an op-ed for the San Jose Mercury, San Francisco DA George Gascon says that the death penalty should be replaced with life in prison without the possibility of parole. Gascon says the death penalty is both costly, and an ineffective crime deterrent.
And the most urgent reason to end capital punishment, he says, is the alarming percentage of death row inmates found innocent. (A recently published study by the National Academy of Sciences found that one in 25 people handed a death sentence between 1973-2004 were wrongly convicted.)
The stand is particularly significant because of Gascon’s background in law enforcement—he has served as the Assistant Chief of the LAPD, Chief of Police for Mesa, Arizona, and Chief of the SFPD.
Here is a clip from DA Gascon’s op-ed:
Arriving at my current views involved a process that was highly analytical and deeply emotional. Like many people, I have gone through an evolution in my thinking that has led me to believe the death penalty is irreparably flawed and marred by a history of incorrect information.
My journey began with the realization that in my 30 years in law enforcement, the death penalty has had no impact on public safety. Strengthening families and neighborhoods, holding criminals swiftly accountable and ensuring every child receives a quality education are more effective in deterring violent crime than remote threats of execution.
This is especially true in California, where the 745 people now on death row likely will die of old age rather than execution. The truth is that a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole is the most severe punishment and the most effective solution to deal with the most dangerous murderers.
The costly reality of our death penalty system also played a critical role in my evolution. Study after study in California, including the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, has concluded that replacing the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole will save California $130 million every year. That is $130 million of precious taxpayer money that should be spent to prevent crime, to solve crime and to educate our kids.
But the most important stop on my journey was innocence. Even under the most scrupulous practices, the legal system occasionally makes mistakes. Just since 1973, more than 140 people on death rows around the country have been exonerated, thankfully before they were executed. To me, this number was evidence enough that the death penalty invites deadly mistakes.
Last week’s report escalates a disturbing situation into one that deserves public outcry. The researchers calculated that 4.1 percent of the 7,482 accused sentenced to death in the United States from 1973 to 1984 were wrongly convicted. This, according to the researchers, is a “conservative estimate.” That means there may be 30 innocent people on California’s death row right now.
US ATTORNEY GENERAL CONDEMNS OVER-USE OF SOLITARY CONFINEMENT IN JUVENILE FACILITIES
On Wednesday, US Attorney General Eric Holder spoke out against excessive solitary confinement of kids—especially those with disabilities—in detention centers.
Holder said, moving forward, the DOJ would work with states to rein in the use of isolation in juvenile facilities. (It should be noted that LA County Probation still uses isolation in their juvenile probation camps.)
Here is a clip of the transcript from the Dept. of Justice website:
“In a study released last year by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 47 percent of juvenile detention centers reported locking youth in some type of isolation for more than four hours at a time. We have received reports of young people who have been held in solitary confinement for up to 23 hours a day, often with no human interaction at all. In some cases, children were held in small rooms with windows that were barely the width of their own hands.
“This is, to say the least, excessive. And these episodes are all too common.
“This practice is particularly detrimental to young people with disabilities – who are at increased risk under these circumstances of negative effects including self-harm and even suicide. In fact, one national study found that half of the victims of suicides in juvenile facilities were in isolation at the time they took their own lives, and 62 percent of victims had a history of solitary confinement.
“Let me be clear, there may be times when it becomes necessary to remove a detained juvenile from others in order to protect staff, other inmates, or the juvenile himself from harm. However, this action should be taken only in a limited way where there is a valid reason to do so, and for a limited amount of time; isolated juveniles must be closely monitored, and every attempt must be made to continue educational and mental health programming while the youth is in isolation.
“At a minimum, we must work to curb the overreliance on seclusion of youth with disabilities. And at the Department of Justice, we are committed to working with states to do this going forward.