LA county


An end to zero tolerance for willful defiance in L.A. schools?

California schools have long brought about swift punishments for instances of so-called willful defiance, which have disproportionally led to suspensions of many minority students not just in our home state, but nationwide.

Take the case of Damien Valentine, a Manual Arts Senior High School sophomore fighting against the practice, who says that several such punishments earlier in his school accomplished nothing but setting him back.

So just what is “willful defiance?”

That offense is now widely criticized as an arbitrary catchall for any behavior a teacher finds objectionable, such as repeatedly tapping feet on the floor, refusing to remove a hat or failing to wear the school uniform. It accounted for 48% of 710,000 suspensions issued in California in 2011-12, prompting both state and local efforts to restrict its use in disciplinary actions.

A resolution moving through Los Angeles County would make L.A. Unified the first school district in California to ban suspensions for the aforementioned offenses.

Said Tonna Onyendu of the Liberty Hill Foundation, a Los Angeles nonprofit:

“This will be a transformational shift. Instead of punishing students, we’re going to engage them.”

Read more on the matter in Teresa Watanabe’s report.

Photos: Christina House / For The Times


If you live in the Los Angeles / San Bernardino County area:

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California - Long Beach 001

This is Long Beach Harbor in California.

Chronicling Los Angeles' "death alley" and beyond

A two mile corridor of South Vermont Ave. has become one of the most dangerous areas in the country, with sixty people killed in the area since 2007. And that stretch borders Westmont, a county that ranks as among L.A.’s most dangerous.

Westmont’s homicide figure is about the same as the combined total in Highland Park, Glendale, Pasadena, Eagle Rock, Glassell Park and Atwater Village, an area with 14 times as many residents and some neighborhoods that have experienced gang problems of their own.

Our newly-revamped Homicide Report will be keeping an eye on Westmont’s continued problems, along with documenting every other killing in L.A. County that may otherwise fall through the cracks.

Reporter Nicole Santa Cruz will continue to speak to families and neighborhoods impacted by tragedy, and our database of those who have fallen since 2007 continues to improve.

Examine the new Homicide Report right here, and feel free to reach out with any feedback you may have on how we can improve our efforts.