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Public Counsel’s Laura Faer on Criminal Justice Conversations

Laura Faer, the Education Rights Director for the Public Counsel Law Center, talks with host David Onek about the movement to reform California’s broken school discipline process.

Interview Highlights

On school suspensions in California:

“We have an alarming rate of suspensions in the state. In 2009, we issued over 757,000 suspensions. And again, in 2010, we issued another 700,000. And suspensions in California can be up to five days. The number of students we’re suspending can really fill up all of the football, baseball, basketball stadiums in the entire state. And this has true real-life impacts on our children. It’s really correlated with their involvement in the juvenile justice system, with them dropping out of school and with having really poor outcomes. So, it’s an unsound education policy, and we have far better alternatives.”

On disparities in the school discipline process:

“In California, African American male students are three times as likely as any other peer group to actually be suspended from school. If you’re a student with a disability and you’re also African American, 28% of those students are being suspended from our schools according to recent federal data that was released. If you are a student with a single parent, you are actually two to four times as likely to be suspended. So we are actually punishing not only our students of color, our students of disabilities, but our most vulnerable students.”

On what California can do to fix the problem:

“We really need in California to have a better handle on who is impacted by our suspension and expulsion policies. And we need to get that data in a way that people can access it throughout the state. Currently, the state only reports the sheer numbers of suspensions and expulsions. What we’re asking for is data that’s more readily accessible, so that you and your community can take a look and say here’s what we need to focus on. Here’s where we need to target our resources. Here are the children that are really bearing the brunt of all of these suspensions and expulsions. And what can we do to, maybe, help turn this around?”


The Criminal Justice Conversations Podcast with David Onek features in-depth, thirty-minute interviews with a wide range of criminal justice leaders: law enforcement officials, policymakers, advocates, service providers, academics and others.

The Podcast gets behind the sound bites that far too often dominate the public dialogue about criminal justice, to have detailed, nuanced conversations about criminal justice policy.

Podcast host David Onek is a Senior Fellow at Berkeley Law School and a former Commissioner on the San Francisco Police Commission.

You can find more information on the Criminal Justice Conversations Podcast and listen to all past episodes on the Podcast web site.

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