A New Bill Looks at California’s “Day Schools” & the School Push-Out Problem….LAT Editorial on Tanaka Interview…and MoreMay 2nd, 2013 by Celeste Fremon
There are so many ways for a kid to get lost in our modern educational system. So many holes that they can fall through or be shoved through by adults who are overwhelmed, or overmatched, or not paying enough attention.
Of late, there’s been a lot of focus on school suspensions and expulsions. We now know that, for tens of thousands of kids every year in California, zero-tolerance-driven disciplinary sanctions are doing more harm than good. Researcher have gathered plenty of evidence that clumsily over-disciplining a student too frequently backfires and results in that student eventually giving up and leaving school altogether. These kids aren’t kicked out of school. They are “pushed out.”
However, the “push out” problem has many guises. And one of the least talked about causal threads in the push out phenomenon is the state’s system of “day schools.”
Day schools are the sort of last chance U’s that were created to be a temporary fix designed to help kids who have fallen way behind academically to catch up, or to give struggling students better tools and/or treatments for problems they may be having at at their regular schools or in their home lives.
Homeless kids, or kids in the foster care system, or LGBTQ kids, for example, are among those who have, in the past, been frequently transferred to day schools for reasons other than disciplinary. Poor kids of color wind up in day schools more often than their white contemporaries.
This might be fine is those students were then able get the extra help their situations require, and thus be better able to go on with their educational lives. But, unfortunately, much of the time, this is not the case.
Too routinely, it turns out, kids are involuntarily pushed out of their mainstream schools and placed in these alternative county community schools and community day schools, many of which turn out not to help them at all.
And, once there, even if they are aided to some degree, rather than being returned to regular school after they’ve gotten what the day school has to give, the kids find themselves stuck in limbo, with no way to return to a traditional schools once they are ready. As a consequence, many of those kids end up dropping out. Or, if they do return to regular schools, they arrive less prepared to succeed, not more.
ENTER AB 744
AB 744 is a new bill authored by Ricardo Lara (D-Long Beach) that was introduced Wednesday, and which aims to fix the worst of the Day School system’s ills.
According to Laura Faer of the Public Council—which is one of the bill’s sponsors—if passed, AB 744 will close some of the systemic holes that kids are slipping through.
“We shouldn’t be transferring our young people with the highest needs to schools that don’t have the right programs to help them,” says Faer. “But that’s what we’re doing. This bill offers protections for students and for parents that will ensure due process, and will allow parents to participate in choosing a school that is the best educational fit for their son or daughter.”
DAY SCHOOL PUSH-OUT TALES
At Wednesday’s hearing for AB744, a string of students and advocates told individual stories that translated the problems of the Day School system into human terms.
For instance, there was the case of the gay-identified Latino kid from San Joaquin County who received homophobic bullying starting in grade school. In middle school, the bullying escalated, complete with humiliating Facebook posts, online death threats, and suggestions that the boy do everyone a favor and kill himself.
The boy became understandably fearful about his safety and, not knowing what else to do, since the adults had been no help, he started skipping school. That got him some adult attention, but instead of addressing the problem directly, and finding a safe school for the now-thoroughly traumatized student, officials transfered him to a day school, where the bullying simply continued with a different cast of characters. Had it not been for the agressive intervention by lawyers from California Rural Legal Service, the boy “would have dropped out of school,” wrote Franchesca Gonzales, an attorney for CRLS.
And then there was this story told by Abigail Trillin, the Executive Director of Legal Services for Children, who has been representing kids in expulsion hearings for 20 years.
A few weeks ago our office represented a young person in a case that is, sadly, quite typical. Our client was alleged to have sold drugs. He did not sell drugs. As his lawyers we assured him, “Don’t worry. You have the right to a hearing. You will be able to tell your story. You won’t be kicked out of school for something you didn’t do.”
Part of what we told him was right: He had a hearing, he told his story and the school acknowledged they had identified him based on a witness who had never met him. He easily won his hearing. Yet, just as he feared, our client was kicked out of school for something he didn’t do. Even though he won his hearing, he was transferred out of a school that was not only his neighborhood school but also his family school where both his brother and his father had attended. He was an honors student in AP classes whose school year was completely disrupted for no reason.
When students are involuntary transferred after winning an expulsion they lose their friends, their teachers and their school stability, but they lose something else too. Students like our client lose their entire faith in the system—–a system that turns your life upside down even after the hearing that was supposed to protect your due process proves your innocence. When this happens our students learn a terrible lesson about the school system: they learn that the system is fundamentally unfair. And that very damaging lesson, along with their loss of academic stability, will make it that much harder to engage in school and be successful in the future.
I urge you to support AB744
AND IN OTHER NEWS….LA TIMES EDITORIAL COMMENTS ON TANAKA INTERVIEW
Thursday morning’s LA Times editorial, presumably written by the excellent Sandra Hernandez, calls for the LA County supervisors to move ahead with an Inspector General and civilian oversight for the LASD, the sooner the better. And who can disagree? But, an IG has no real power so, while potentially helpful, that fix can only take us so far.
Mostly, I suspect, the editorial indicates the LAT board, like the rest of us, is still reeling from the multi-leveled, jaw-dropping implications of the Tanaka interview, the full affect of which, like bomb shrapnel that travels far beyond the first-level blast radius of its original impact, is not going to be truly apprehended for a while.
The essay opens like this:
Paul Tanaka was once a trusted aide to Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca and, in the view of many department critics, the real power behind the badge. But earlier this year, Tanaka was forced out of his job, and now, in a jaw-dropping interview with The Times’ Robert Faturechi, he has accused Baca of a variety of misdeeds, including nepotism, fostering a culture of abuse and putting politics (and foreign travel) ahead of public safety.
Whether those charges are accurate or merely the angry allegations of your typical disgruntled former employee is not yet clear. After all, Tanaka himself has been repeatedly accused of encouraging misconduct and abuse; he’s got plenty of incentive to try to shift the blame.
But for this: The picture Tanaka painted of Baca is not an unfamiliar one. Erratic, confused — these are recognizable traits to those who have met with the mild-mannered sheriff. So is his apparent failure to effectively manage the people who work for him or to adequately control the vast department he is supposed to oversee.
Last year, the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence lambasted Baca’s management of the jails, going so far as to suggest that he probably would have been fired for incompetence had he been working in the private sector. The commission faulted him for failing to pay attention to what was happening around him and for a lack of “genuine concern” about the severity of the problems in the jails.
NEW DOJ REPORT SAYS THE US BUREAU OF PRISONS’ COMPASSIONATE RELEASE PROGRAM IS A MESS
Last month, the Department of Justice released a new report on the Bureau of Prisons’ Compassionate Release Program—and what the report found was not particularly encouraging.
Here’s a clip from the opening of the report:
In the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, Congress authorized the Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons(BOP) to request that a federal judge reduce an inmate’s sentence for “extraordinary and compelling” circumstances.1 Under the statute, the request can be based on either medical or non-medical conditions that could not reasonably have been foreseen by the judge at the time of sentencing.2 The BOP has issued regulations and a Program Statement entitled “compassionate release” to implement this authority.3 This review assessed the BOP’s compassionate release program, including whether it provides cost savings or other benefits to the BOP.
And this clip is from the results section that details what the report found:
The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found that an effectively managed compassionate release program would result in cost savings for the BOP, as well as assist the BOP in managing its continually growing inmate population and the significant capacity challenges it is facing. However, we found that the existing BOP compassionate release program has been poorly managed and implemented inconsistently, likely resulting in eligible inmates not being considered for release and in terminally ill inmates dying before their requests were decided circumstances that warranted consideration for compassionate release.
The BOP does not have clear standards on when compassionate release is warranted, resulting in ad hoc decision making. The BOP’s regulations and Program Statement provide no criteria or standards to use in evaluating whether a medical or nonmedical circumstance qualifies for consideration. As a result, we found that BOP staff had varied and inconsistent understandings of the For example, at some institutions, only inmates with a life expectancy of 6 months or less were deemed eligible for consideration. At other institutions, inmates with a life expectancy of 12 months or less were considered eligible candidates. We further found that although the BOP’s regulations and Program Statement permit non-medical circumstances to be considered as a basis for compassionate release, the BOP routinely rejects such requests and did not approve a single nonmedical request during the 6-year period of ourreview…..
Like I said, a mess.
The 85-page report contains a list of recommendations as to how the place can be straightened around.
AND SPEAKING OF PRISONS, AS CA’S PRISONS REDUCE POPULATION, INMATE COFFEE ROASTERS ARE LOSING REVENUE
James Nash of Bloomberg has the story. Here’s a clip:
California’s prison industries program, which includes ventures from coffee-roasting to furniture-making, is the largest such U.S. effort to give felons a life after lockup. Yet Governor Jerry Brown’s very success in reducing inmate overcrowding is endangering it.
Prison labor, once best known for making license plates, has grown to 57 factories doing such work as modular building construction, toner cartridge recycling, shoemaking and juice packaging, according to its latest annual report. Convicts supply closed-captioning for television and transcribe movies into Braille.
“Everyone says the most valuable product we put out there is a person who’s not going to go back and re-offend, who has job skills and dedication,” said Josh Bayer, who manages the prison industries at the California Institution for Men, Chino. “That’s our product: rehabilitation.”
Yet even with workers paid 35 cents to 95 cents an hour, business is off. Sales are exclusively to state and local governments, almost all under budget pressure. The biggest customer, the Corrections Department, has 43,000 fewer inmates since 2006, many shifted to county jails to ease crowding. Revenue slipped 18 percent to $173 million in the fiscal year that ended in June, from almost $210 million five years earlier.
“We are statutorily required to be self-sufficient,” said Eric Reslock, a spokesman for the California Prison Industry Authority. Some work programs have been scaled back and all are being reviewed, he said.
To be sure, most inmates don’t work. About 7,000 of the more than 132,000 prisoners are in industrial programs, according to the annual report.