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Letters: Dealing with defiant students

May 14, 2013
  • Manual Arts High School student Damien Valentine has been suspended several times but is now working with community groups to pass a proposal that would ban suspensions of defiant students in the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Manual Arts High School student Damien Valentine has been suspended several… (Christina House / For The…)

Re "A milder way to fight defiance," May 13

"Willful defiance" is not a trivial matter because it affects the ability of teachers to focus on instruction. The real issue is whether suspension is an effective way of dealing with this kind of misbehavior.

Districts that have adopted restorative justice practices, which focus more on repairing the harm caused by misbehavior than punishment, report promising results. For example, in 2009, the San Francisco Unified School District instituted the approach and, by 2012, saw suspensions drop from 2,270 to 1,807.

The key to success is proper training of teachers and administrators. The payoff for teachers far exceeds the cost of the program.

Walt Gardner

Los Angeles

Gardner is the author of Education Week's Reality Check blog.

High school sophomore Damien Valentine, who desires to become a doctor, has been repeatedly suspended for disruptive or defiant behavior. He sees that these suspensions made him fall further behind in his education.

His solution? That the Los Angeles Unified School District should ban suspensions for willful defiance by students. The school board is set to vote on this matter Tuesday.

Suspension for disruptive or defiant behavior by students should be used as only one tool to address this problem, but it should not be banned. Disallowing its use in these cases would be one more unhelpful knee-jerk reaction by the district.

Carol J. Smith


Regardless of the intentions of those who seek to ban suspension for willful defiance, doing so would cater to the lowest common denominator. According to the article, disruptive students reduce class instruction time by an estimated 25%, an irreplaceable loss.

High schools prepare students to take their place in society and to work. Disruptive behavior is not tolerated in the workplace. Better to learn this important lesson with a school suspension than from unemployment.

Jim Fitzgerald

La Jolla


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