Posted: 04/15/2014 04:14:00 AM PDT
THE MARIN COUNTY Civil Grand Jury says Marin school administrators and trustees have some homework to do.
In a not-so-glowing report, the grand jury found that Marin public schools don't all follow uniform or up-to-date guidelines when it comes to dishing out discipline, in particular suspensions.
In fact, Marin schools suspend a lot of kids when state law calls for districts to do much more to keep those kids in school, learning.
One local educator told the grand jury, "Some parents and faculty don't want fluffy diversion stuff."
That attitude may not be pervasive across Marin schools, but the number of suspensions from local high schools exceeds the state average for cases that don't involve violence or breaking the law. Such suspensions account for about one-third of Marin's total.
The grand jury asks a good question: What good does suspending kids do for the education of those youngsters? How are those kids learning by not being in class?
"Most school suspensions inflict more harm than good," the grand jury writes in the opening sentence of its report.
The issue is even more troubling when statewide statistics show that most kids who are suspended frequently have struggles at home — poverty, abuse or neglect, possibly all three.
In addition, the state Education Code was changed last year to require that student suspensions for nonviolent offenses should be imposed "only after other means of correction fail."
The grand jury, which conducted 30 private interviews over five months, found that most local administrators or trustees had no clue about this change in the state code, yet they were making decisions about whether to kick pupils out of school.
As the ones with the responsibility and power to make such decisions, they should be up to date with changes in state policy.
Maybe the state standard is too "fluffy" for some local educators, but you would expect local school leaders to be following the rules and making sure that their rules are in keeping with state law.
The grand jury called this issue "a significant lapse in administrative oversight. This seems to be a case where a mandate slipped between governance cracks."
That's one of the reasons districts pay a lot for lawyers.
This disconnect should prompt questions from local school trustees.
Turnover of administrators, especially principals and vice principals, was cited by the grand jury as one of the reasons frequently given for why there may be a lack of clarity and uniformity about disciplinary policies from district to district, or even school to school.
That's not necessarily a good excuse, particularly when, as in some recent years, 500 to nearly 700 kids were kicked out of class.
The grand jury did its homework and found that local educators haven't done theirs.
Dealing with disciplinary issues is not an easy job, but when those handing out the discipline aren't sure about what's right or wrong, that's a problem that should be rectified — promptly.