Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Leaders hope to cut down on suspensions by using alternatives such as written apologies and timeouts.

By Paul Clinton, Staff Writer | Daily Breeze

Tuesday, August 21, 2007 - Faced with some of the toughest discipline problems in American public education, the Los Angeles Unified School District suspends students 60,000 to 80,000 times a year.

Now the district wants to spare the rod.

Los Angeles Unified is rolling out a new discipline policy this fall designed to give problem students a reason not to act out by providing "positive behavior support."

A 14-page document developed in March with input from United Teachers Los Angeles President A.J. Duffy represents the district's first effort to put plans on paper to curb bad behavior. Except for expulsions, discipline in the nation's second-largest school district was until now largely a matter handled at the school level.

In an appendix to the March 27 memo, the district outlines examples of student misconduct and possible consequences.

It gives teachers a menu of discipline options including timeouts, written apologies, use of a daily report card or assigning a troubled student a mentor.

Administrators at Local District 8, which stretches from San Pedro to Watts, have begun to hash out the specifics of implementing the policy. On Thursday, they'll present it to principals for the first time, said Karen Saunders, a local operations manager. A week later, it will be presented to deans who oversee discipline at high schools.

"Teachers are going to be challenged to try some other strategies than suspension," Saunders said.

The policy would bring a "foundational approach" to discipline in LAUSD schools, said Hector Madrigal, director of pupil services. Schools would be required to take further steps to correct behavior before sending students off campus, he said.

"The foundation is to attempt many interventions prior to the most severe," Madrigal said, though he added: "I don't think any school in my opinion is going to shy away from their responsibility to use discipline where it's appropriate."

Reports of rambunctiousness, defiance and even violence have been commonplace in LAUSD, often driving out first- and second-year teachers.

New board member Richard Vladovic's office is supporting the policy, as long as the district collaborates with teachers, said Chief of Staff David Kooper.

If not, he fears, the policy will flame out as an unenforceable edict from the Beaudry Avenue headquarters.

"This is a top-down approach to the behavior problems," Kooper said. "It needs to have teacher buy-in. If you look at the policy, there isn't too much to disagree with."

Indeed, the self-described "framework" cited in the March memo states the need for "positively stated rules which are taught, enforced, advocated and modeled at every campus."

However, Lisa Snell, education director at the Reason Foundation, a libertarian think tank in Los Angeles, warned that the well-meaning policy could flounder.

"It's good to hold kids to high expectations, but you have to follow through and offer them something of high value," Snell said. "And that's where LAUSD is going to have a problem. That's where it breaks down. The kids don't perceive the high school experience as having value."

Schools that dole out more discipline have a track record as the schools with the worst discipline problems, Madrigal said.

"The ones who use punitive tactics as the preferred solutions have the highest amount of aggression on campus," Madrigal said. "Suspensions can turn into dropouts, because they don't come back. Some people think removing kids is the solution. Oftentimes removing kids can simply result in higher dropout rates and greater gang violence in the community."

One of the stated goals of the policy is to reduce the number of so-called "opportunity transfers," a designation for students that high schools are seeking to offload to a nearby school. The policy, which isn't widely used outside of LAUSD, seeks to give the student a chance for a fresh start.

A policy that promotes better behaved students typically leads to higher test scores, district officials said.

The new discipline framework is being seen as way to achieve that, said Donnalyn Jacque-Anton, the administrator overseeing the implementation of the policy.

"One of the things we haven't paid a lot of attention to is classroom management," she said.

To The Editor: Two Things:

  1. "A 14-page document developed in March with input from United Teachers Los Angeles President A.J. Duffy represents the district's first effort to put plans on paper to curb bad behavior" hardly does justice to a two year process involving teachers, parents, principals, students, community members, downtown administrators and thousands of man-and-woman-hours of collaboration.

  1. "Rambunctiousness" is part of the job description of children – no policy can, will or should eradicate it. First and second year teachers who are driven out of the system by it were not cut out to be teachers. smf


The Daily Breeze got it wrong, but it doesn't appear that they were given much substance to draw from. I am not surprised. There are positive things in the area of safety and discipline occurring in the district that never seem to get the attention they deserve.

An article in the August 2007 issue of LA Parent Magazine on Lessons on School Safety had this comment: "According to experts, getting to and from school can be the most dangerous time of a student's day."

Yet none of the district officials interviewed mentioned the Safe Passages work of the many Safety Collaborative in LAUSD schools which are widely hailed as a model for the rest of the State. Buren Simmons and his office of Youth Relations which founded the Collaborative were not mentioned.

Local District 7 obtained a quarter million dollar violence prevention grant this year to target safe passages in the community of Watts but no one seems to take note.


Dear Paul,

My name is Ilene Ashcraft, I am a Parent of six children who are/or have attended LAUSD schools. I am on the LAUSD Behavior Discipline Policy Task Force Team. I have attended the meetings every month with representatives of Teachers, Administrators, Central Office Affiliates, UTLA reps and other parents. We worked hard to make decisions based on data that would help in developing this Behavior Discipline Policy.

It is true, the tricky part of the Discipline Behavior Policy is: "following through and offering the students something of high value," These details will have to be worked out, but in the mean time, I would encourage you to visit the schools that have implemented 'Defining Clear Expectations at their schools,' and see the rewards that have resulted.

The other day I had the opportunity to visit Bethune MS and noticed the very refreshing atmosphere that has accompanied the 'Defining Clear Expectation' Behavior Policy.

In relation, Kooper said, "This is a top-down approach to the behavior problems, It needs to have teacher buy-in"

The Discipline Policy team has strived to provide enough information that hopefully the teachers and Administrators can decide on which way is best to implement the program based on their own environment.

What about those teachers who don't want to make a change? They're discouraged that anything they do makes no difference, so why try? And Principals may feel, "this is something else to take up my time and what if not everyone wants to 'buy-in"? Everyone is tired of having students who are not there to learn, not there to comply, not want to be there at all.

Here is a tip for them:

1. Go on

2. Click on the picture of Roger Preble: free mini training

Here you will find that there is a way to engage the student, it's an amazing concept that Roger Preble, the President and author of has found. If every teacher, administrator and staff member could implement these concepts - it will give them power, it will give them a new outlook on their teaching abilities, to realize they can somehow, click the child’s mind into wanting to learn what the teacher has to teach.

I hope people will go on the website: to the see the fascinating way Roger Preble suggests that teachers, administrators, staff and parents can really know how to engage the student, child in really listening and having a desire to learn. With this and the New Discipline Behavior Policy, we can and will start seeing a way to close the Achievement Gap and improving high School Graduates.

Thank you for the opportunity for allowing me to share my thoughts. Please review the presentation at and see what you think.


Ilene Ashcraft

1st Vice President Los Angeles Tenth District PTSA

Public Relations for District 3 Compensatory Education Advisory Committee

LAUSD Discipline Behavior Task Force Team Member

1 comment:

Jessica said...

I agree with Mrs. Ashcraft. The people skills web site provides a training that will help every teacher know how to more effectively approach the students and get their positive attention. If all the teachers went through this training there would be a dramatic improvement in level of education that the kids would soak up on a daily basis. Success is getting people to do things that you want them to do and accomplish without violating their rights along the way.