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California voters overwhelming favor prevention-oriented strategies
over approaches prioritizing expulsion and suspension
A new statewide poll has found high levels of support for school discipline reform in California, with four out of five voters agreeing that changes are needed. According to the poll, voters strongly support positive approaches aimed at preventing misconduct, keeping kids in school and improving school safety.
According to data recently released by the U.S. Department of Education, more than 400,000 California public school students were suspended during the 2009-2010 school year, enough to fill the Rose Bowl four times over. During the past three years, California schools have issued more than 2 million suspension orders, many for minor misbehaviors that used to be handled by a school principal or guidance counselor. Reports released by the California Department of Education confirm that most California suspensions are not related to violence or drugs. 
The poll of 800 California voters, conducted in late March by the public opinion research firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates, asked about a range of approaches to school discipline, from punitive approaches that rely heavily on suspensions and expulsions to prevention-oriented strategies that keep students in school and suspend only as a last resort.
The research firm’s summary report concludes:
Broad support exists for positive, preventative approaches that hold students accountable for misbehavior but also provide them with the support they need to get back on track and be successful in school.
A complete copy of the summary report authored by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates can be downloaded by clicking here.
Key findings from the poll include:
  •  Four in five voters believe that California school discipline policies need changing.  Survey respondents were asked whether public school discipline policies need major changes, minor changes or no changes.  Fully 80% believed changes are needed, with 41% saying major changes are in order.
  • Californians voice high levels of support for preventive approaches to school discipline, such as teaching character development and conflict resolution from a young age and teaching positive behavior and skills for managing emotions and making better decisions.  Voters believe an effective school system should prevent discipline problems and not simply punish students after problems occur.
  • California voters believe teachers and schools should have more resources when it comes to school discipline.  The survey shows 85% of respondents said teachers should have more tools to manage discipline in their classroom, with large majorities supporting expanding student access to counseling services, mental health and substance abuse services.
  • Voters understand the serious consequences that can occur when children are suspended or expelled from school.  A majority of voters said expelling or suspending a student makes them more likely to end up dropping out, committing crimes or going to jail.  Respondents supported school discipline strategies that hold students accountable for their actions, while allowing them to learn from their mistakes.
"We are pleased to learn through this poll that California voters share our concerns about the overuse of harsh discipline in schools and the importance of using positive practices that support the emotional health and well-being of children," said California Endowment President and CEO Robert K. Ross. "We say Health Happens in Schools because school environments play a key role in helping children develop both healthy bodies and minds through approaches such as positive school discipline."
The poll was commissioned by The California Endowment, a private health foundation.  The problem of extreme school discipline was brought to the foundation’s attention by neighborhood and youth leaders in disadvantaged communities, where The Endowment supports building healthier neighborhood and school environments. 
Note to Editors: Pollster Dave Metz is available for interviews on Monday, April 9.
About The California Endowment
The California Endowment, a private, statewide health foundation, was established in 1996 to expand access to affordable, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities, and to promote fundamental improvements in the health status of all Californians. Headquartered in downtown Los Angeles, The Endowment has regional offices in Sacramento, Oakland, Fresno and San Diego, with program staff working throughout the state. The Endowment challenges the conventional wisdom that medical settings and individual choices are solely responsible for people's health. The Endowment believes that health happens in neighborhoods, schools and with prevention. For more information, visit The Endowment's Web site at