A new policy that will refrain from citing San Bernardino City Unified School District students for misdemeanor offenses passed its first test on Tuesday.
After several months of deliberation with faith-based groups and other community stakeholders on how to reduce suspensions and prevent criminalization of students, the district’s board members are now considering implementing revisions to Board Code 5144.3 (Student Citation).
“I want to celebrate this board and the champions who moved this forward,” said Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement Executive Director Pastor Samuel Casey. “You have acted courageously tonight. We want to continue to move in the right direction.”
The policy document prepared by the district’s Student Services Division emphasizes proactive, non-punitive enforcement strategies that are consistent with Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS) and Restorative Justice principles.
That means that misdemeanor violations–daytime and nighttime curfew violations, loitering in public places, possession of tobacco products, fights on school grounds and school-sponsored events, and possession of small amounts of cannabis (non-sale)–will no longer warrant a citation. Students who commit the aforementioned violations will be referred to administrators for alternative discipline.
Assistant Superintendent Kennon Mitchell explained to the 60 or so parents and residents in attendance that proper criminal action will be taken if a student causes bodily harm or injury to another student.
Many of the board members believe changes to student discipline will cease to contribute to the so-called ‘School to Prison Pipeline’.
“We never had the intent of giving students misdemeanors and felonies,” Tillman said. “Our goal is to make our kids as successful as possible.”
Brandon Watts, 19, a former student at Cajon High School and current Political Science student at Howard University emphasized the impact a citation could have on a student.
“I have a first-hand experience with this,” said Watts through a video message. “I received a citation in the 8th grade, and it’s followed me to college in Washington D.C. I believe that a youth should not have to suffer for the rest of his life for a mistake he made in his childhood.”
The next regularly-scheduled school board meeting will take place at 5:30 p.m. on May 31, 2016. The meeting will take place at the district offices at 777 North “F” Street in San Bernardino.