The Master of Suspension
By Ed Goldman
The new law is Senate Bill 419 by Democratic State Senator Nancy Skinner of Berkeley. I provide that information in case you keep a diary of numbered bills—or are playing the home version of “Legislature!” on a rainy afternoon with your kids who’ve been suspended from school. There’s nothing like playing a board game with juvenile delinquents on a dreary day, and maybe even following it up with pizza, hangman and a quick round of “I Spy” (You can see why I’m so popular with pre-teens. I speak their “lingo,” if you know what I mean. The very personification of a Rad Dad.)
Senator Skinner told the Tribune News that suspending suspensions, so to speak, ”may be one of the best ways to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline.”
Uh-huh. Let’s unpack this a moment: Is Skinner saying that by letting kids misbehave in class without consequences, they’re going to straighten up, fly right and join Junior Rotary by the time they get to high school?
Now, if the point is that missing school is harmful for kids, I’m right there with the senator. Too many studies argue that even when students miss school from kindergarten through third grade, it can set a pattern of under-achievement that carries through to adulthood. One of the education companies that compiled this research is the national School Innovations & Achievement, based in the Sierra foothills, which created a software-and-services program for school districts called Attention2Attendance. It automatically generates a series of letters to the parents of MIA kids. “After just the first letter, the problem is usually resolved,” Susan Cook, the firm’s chief operating officer, tells me. (Full disclosure: I’m the one who named A2A for the firm some years ago.)