California Assembly Bill 420: street level bureaucrats and the discipline gap

Topic: For centuries African American male students have been underserved in America’s Public School System. Current research suggests public school experiences are still negative for African American males. Background: In 2014, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 420, prohibiting the suspension of students from kindergarten through third grade for defiance and disruption, a catchall suspension category dominated largely by African American males and a large contribution to the discipline gap. Today, the California (CA) State Department of Education reports that this bill has helped reduce the number of suspensions of African American males from the classroom. Research: This study analyzes the implementation effects of Assembly Bill 420 and possible implications that ground level policy may have on the discipline gap. The purpose and significance of this study is to gather information, adding to a hole in research literature about policy implementation analysis of elementary school law. Literary Framework: Research and current government reports have correlated the disproportionate suspension of African American male students to the increased likelihood this population will not complete high school and is likely to enter the prison system before the age of twenty-five. Theoretical Perspective: Street Level Bureaucracy (SLB) Theory and Critical Race Theory (CRT) are the two theories that frame this study. The foundational elements of Critical Race Theory (i.e. equity, education law, justice) provide a lens to analyze and discuss the study’s findings (Secada, 1989). Michael Lipsky’s theory of Street Level Bureaucracy builds upon the foundation CRT establishes to provide a policy implementation theory relevant to the hypothesis and research questions. Methodology: This study uses a basic qualitative method. Teacher interviews are used to help address the research questions, seeking themes and patterns to better understand the effects of this policy. Discussion & Analysis: This body of research contributes to the former studies conducted around the discipline gap. The final discussion narrates the findings of data pre- and post AB 420, using thematic coding patterns of teacher interviews and how both theories contribute to a better understanding about the implementation effects of policy AB 420. A solution or conclusive answer to the study’s research questions is not the intended outcome of the study. Keywords: African-American boys, discipline, California Assembly Bill 420, Critical Race Theory, Street Level Bureaucracy, Amendment 14, disruption, defiance, Education Code 48900