Photo by Flickr user ccarlstead/ Creative Commons
Photo by Flickr user ccarlstead/ Creative Commons
Photo by Flickr user ccarlstead/ Creative Commons

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The Los Angeles Unified School District voted Tuesday to ban suspensions for “willful defiance,” a major shift from the previously instituted zero tolerance policy.

In a 5 to 2 vote, the board adopted the 2013 School Discipline Policy and School Climate Bill of Rights proposed by LAUSD board President Monica Garcia.

The policy will establish new guidelines for how schools discipline students who are “disruptive.” Instead of suspending or expelling these students, alternative methods of “restorative justice,” including counseling and detention, will be used to support students on campus.

“As a parent, I am thrilled to know my son will face one less obstacle on his road to college,” said Lydia Avila, director of community organizing at Inner City Struggle.

About 48% of 710,000 California suspensions in 2011-12 were issued for acts of defiance. Civil right and education advocates say the zero tolerance approach””adopted by school districts over a decade ago– has disproportionately affected students of color.

Just last month, a UCLA study showed that the black student suspension rate grew from 11.8 to 24.3 percent from 1972 to 2010, while the white student rate increase was from 6 to 7.1 percent. During the same period, the Latino student suspension rate increased from 6.1 to 12 percent.

“This vote is an important first step in our effort to ensure that every student has an opportunity to thrive,” said Kafi D. Blumenfield, President and CEO of Liberty Hill Foundation, which has been managing the campaign for Garcia’s proposal. “Passage of The School Climate Bill of Rights signals that L.A. truly wants all students to lead healthy, successful lives.”

During last night’s meeting, the school board also approved to expand Breakfast in the Classroom, a program that moves the free and reduced price breakfast from the cafeteria to the classroom.

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