The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

CA Senate Bill 419

Progressives feel that it is rarely if ever a good idea to expel a K-12 student who is disruptive in class. They argue that there are deep societal reasons for the disruptive behavior and that if only we achieved the utopian society they envision, these disruptive, sometimes violent students would somehow change their ways. As if to accentuate this position, the home of progressive thought, California, has codified this as law. The Sacramento Bee reports:
It is will soon be illegal in California for both public and charter schools to suspend disruptive students from kindergarten through eighth grade

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday signed into law Senate Bill 419, which permanently prohibits willful defiance suspensions in grades four and five. It also bans such suspensions in grades six through eight for five years.

The law goes into effect July 1, 2020 ...

Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, who wrote the new law, said it would “keep kids in school where they belong and where teachers and counselors can help them thrive.”

“SB 419 puts the needs of kids first,” she said.

California students missed more than 150,000 days of school because of suspensions for unruly behavior in the 2016-17 academic year, according to a California Senate analysis of SB 419.

Skinner and other supporters of the bill argued that students of color are disproportionately affected by such suspensions.
It's worth noting that the same progressive mindset (although not codified as law but implemented as policy) was at work in Parkland, FL in the years prior to the tragic mass-shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February, 2018. In a new book written by the father of one of the girls murdered that day, we learn that the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, was a mentally unstable student who was long recognized as such by faculty, administrators and students. Cruz was dangerously disruptive and potentially violent. The authors, Andrew Pollack and Max Eden write about Cruz in the years prior to his admission to MSD High School:
Westglades [Middle School] students and staff had never seen anyone like Nikolas Cruz ... If something frustrated Cruz, he would curse and threaten anyone nearby. He would hide behind corners and doors, jump out and scream at people, and then cackle at their fear. Sometimes, for no apparent reason, he would burst into maniacal laughter.

Cruz’s torture and killing of animals became a source of pride for him as he interacted with other students. One student, Devin, recalled that, although he tried to avoid Cruz, Cruz would approach him almost every day and ask, “Would you like to see videos of me skinning animals?” Devin always declined, but Cruz kept asking.

Cruz’s records suggest that his reign of terror at Westglades Middle School began halfway through his seventh-grade year, in February of 2013. For the next calendar year, Cruz was suspended every other day. Why did the school allow him to remain enrolled despite his daily, deranged behavior for a full year? Not by negligence, but by policy.

Students with disabilities are supposed to be educated in the “least restrictive environment” possible, regardless of whether their disability is that they’re dyslexic or a psychopath, and the paperwork requirements to send them to a specialized school can take many months.
The authors go on to recount documented behavior that indicates clearly and unequivocally that Cruz was mentally ill. Pollack and Eden write:
When Cruz’s teachers were asked what he was interested in or enjoyed, almost every single one mentioned guns, the military, or war.

... Cruz appears to have calmed down for a few months, and that was enough to earn him a ticket to Marjory Stoneman Douglas. In April, he told Ortiz that he wanted to enroll in the high school Junior Reserve Officer Training Core program.

Ortiz recorded, “interested in [J]ROTC? — not advised … Discussed the safety of others/himself.”

But the next month, every member of Cruz’s “Child Study Team” recommended that he be mainstreamed for two class periods a day at the beginning of the 2015-16 school year: for one class to be determined and JROTC.

Nikolas Cruz couldn’t possibly have made himself any clearer. Broward schools staff knew exactly who and what he was. Yet they not only allowed him to enroll in Marjory Stoneman Douglas, they literally gave him an air gun, shaped like an AR-15, and let him practice shooting.

This may sound astonishing. But it was all according to policy. The official review of Nikolas Cruz’s educational history registered no objections to anything you just read.
The manner in which we handle mentally ill people must change, yet far too many cases, political correctness ties the hands of those who recognize that there is a serious problem. It is true that there is a danger that the rights of mentally unstable individuals will be violated. On the other hand, severely mentally ill people, by virtue of the potential danger they pose, forfeit at least some of the privacy and due process protections that others might have. Mentally unstable people live and work among us, and in a small, but non-trivial number of cases, they exhibit potentially violent and even deadly behavior. They're relatively easy to identify, but managing the mentally ill is a serious societal challenge.

One thing is certain. Laws such CA Senate Bill 419 won't do a thing to help and might lead to results that mimic the events that led to the tragic story of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.