Report Card

News and discussion on K-12 schools in the greater Sacramento region

June 26, 2013
Activists, Dickinson use drama to examine disciplinary issues

willful.JPGThe state Capitol featured theatrics Wednesday, but not on the Assembly floor.

In a committee room, student actors put on a 10-minute play called "Willful," in which a black high school student named Tom heads to the principal's office for yet another disciplinary action. His mother is sick, and his family has problems at home.

Tom expects a suspension. But this time, Principal Burton decides to send the student to counseling and urges him to seek similar help whenever he's feeling troubled.

That sympathetic response happens too rarely, according to the Black Parallel School Board and Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, among those who brought the play to the Capitol on Wednesday. Nearly half the 2,200 students suspended from California schools each day are punished for "willful defiance," according to state data.

The category can cover a wide range of unspecified behavioral problems, and critics say it gives schools too much leeway to justify disciplinary actions that fall disproportionately on minority students.

Dickinson, a Sacramento Democrat running for state Senate, has written Assembly 420 this year to curtail expulsions or suspensions on the basis of willful defiance. Black or brown students are much more likely than white students to be suspended, Dickinson said. "It's a question of civil rights."

In Sacramento County, 19 percent of black students were suspended last year, compared to 9 percent of Latinos, 7 percent of whites and 4 percent of Asians. Students who are suspended are five times more likely to drop out or become involved in the criminal justice system, Dickinson said.

Donald Lee Calhoun Jr. played Tom in Wednesday's play, part of an event called "Talk it Out: A Community Conversation to Fix School Discipline."

Calhoun, 15, attends American Legion High School, a Sacramento continuation program that serves students deemed to face behavioral or academic challenges. The student actor said he's experienced harsh discipline in his real life. He previously attended Kennedy High School, where he said teachers meted out harsh discipline to all students regardless of race.

Calhoun said he decided to go to American Legion to escape the harsh discipline. When students act out at his new school, he said, teachers and students sit down and have a conversation.

Teachers at the event said the problem is the lack of counselors. Others blamed parents who didn't respond to phone calls or said teachers need additional training to work with students from different cultural backgrounds.

"We've been playing the blame game for so many years," said parent Yesenia Gonzales. "Teachers blame parents. Parents blame teachers. We're not talking to each other. The kids keep falling through the cracks."

Calhoun thinks he knows the answer: "Caring, that's what you need," he said. "If teachers care about you, you will care."

PHOTO: From left, Marcenus Earl plays Mr. Burton, Donald Lee Calhoun Jr. plays Tom and Kai Michelle George plays Susanna. Sacramento Bee / Diana Lambert

About Comments

Reader comments on Sacbee.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Sacramento Bee. If you see an objectionable comment, click the "report abuse" button below it. We will delete comments containing inappropriate links, obscenities, hate speech, and personal attacks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. See more about comments here.

What You Should Know About Comments on Sacbee.com

Sacbee.com is happy to provide a forum for reader interaction, discussion, feedback and reaction to our stories. However, we reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments or ban users who can't play nice. (See our full terms of service here.)

Here are some rules of the road:

• Keep your comments civil. Don't insult one another or the subjects of our articles. If you think a comment violates our guidelines click the "report abuse" button to notify the moderators. Responding to the comment will only encourage bad behavior.

• Don't use profanities, vulgarities or hate speech. This is a general interest news site. Sometimes, there are children present. Don't say anything in a way you wouldn't want your own child to hear.

• Do not attack other users; focus your comments on issues, not individuals.

• Stay on topic. Only post comments relevant to the article at hand. If you want to discuss an issue with a specific user, click on his profile name and send him a direct message.

• Do not copy and paste outside material into the comment box.

• Don't repeat the same comment over and over. We heard you the first time.

• Do not use the commenting system for advertising. That's spam and it isn't allowed.

• Don't use all capital letters. That's akin to yelling and not appreciated by the audience.

You should also know that The Sacramento Bee does not screen comments before they are posted. You are more likely to see inappropriate comments before our staff does, so we ask that you click the "report abuse" button to submit those comments for moderator review. You also may notify us via email at feedback@sacbee.com. Note the headline on which the comment is made and tell us the profile name of the user who made the comment. Remember, comment moderation is subjective. You may find some material objectionable that we won't and vice versa.

If you submit a comment, the user name of your account will appear along with it. Users cannot remove their own comments once they have submitted them, but you may ask our staff to retract one of your comments by sending an email to feedback@sacbee.com. Again, make sure you note the headline on which the comment is made and tell us your profile name.

hide comments

On October 14, The Sacramento Bee will temporarily remove commenting from sacbee.com. While we design the upgrade, we encourage you to tell us what you like and don't like about commenting on sacbee.com and other websites. We've heard from hundreds of you already and we're listening. Please continue to add your thoughts and questions here. We also encourage you to write Letters to the Editor on this and other topics.



About Report Card

Loretta KalbLoretta Kalb started her reporting career at The Sacramento Union, moved to KOVR-13 as a television reporter, editor and producer, headed to The Associated Press in San Francisco and eventually returned to Sacramento and joined The Sacramento Bee. Throughout her career, she has covered the state Legislature, courts, local government and, now, education. She is a Chico native and an Elk Grove resident.

Diana LambertDiana Lambert began her journalism career as a proofreader at the Lodi News-Sentinel. She is now a senior writer at The Sacramento Bee covering K-12 education and California State University, Sacramento. Previously she was The Bee’s Elk Grove bureau chief. Lambert was raised in a military family and lived at bases around the globe. She attended four high schools, graduating from Tokay High in Lodi and then Sacramento State University. She lives in Elk Grove.

TELL US WHAT’S GOING ON AT YOUR SCHOOL
lkalb@sacbee.com
(916) 321-1073
Twitter: @LorettaSacBee

dlambert@sacbee.com
(916) 321-1090
Twitter: @dianalambert

Latest Tweets

Education stories on sacbee.com

Great Schools

Find a school. Connect with parents. Worksheets & activities. Homework help. Parenting dilemmas.
http://sacbee.greatschools.org/

October 2013

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31