San Francisco Schools Aim to Ditch Suspensions in Favor of On-Campus Interventions

The San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education is changing its suspension policy in an attempt to help struggling students.

Trustees are looking to revamp the policy after dozens of students and activists stormed a board meeting Tuesday night to tell commissioners suspensions put kids in a position to fail.

"I've been through a history of suspensions and expulsions and this is my fifth year of high school," student Kevin Murcia said. "I feel like if I wouldn't have been suspended I would have graduated on my expected date.

The current district suspension rules primarily affect students of color, according to Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth. The San Francisco-based community organization said 77 percent of suspended students are Latino or African American.

When it comes to black students, they make up more than 50 percent of suspensions. Black students make up just 10 percent of the district's student population.

Activists and students also called on the board to replace suspensions with on-campus intervention and education.

Commissioner Matt Haney introduced a "safe and supportive schools" policy, which outlines a plan to address a student's issue instead of sending the student home.

"We want to make sure we have counseling in place, social workers in place and that they're not just sitting in a room doing nothing or going home," Haney said.

Trustees said the change in policy is scheduled to take effect next school year. They also said it will be a challenge to implement as training, hiring and developing a teaching plan to replace suspensions must still be developed.

But it's an investment in student success, Murcia said.

"There will be more students that graduate on expected date," he said.

Officials also said there is an effort in the legislature to make this change at schools statewide.

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