From VOA Learning English, this is the Education Report.

Growing up can be hard in poor neighborhoods where crime is common. That is the situation Marco Antonio Aguilar faced when he started at Garfield High School in Los Angeles, California. The boy hated school. He says he had the wrong friends, often missed classes and even got into fights.

The school suspended him, barring him from attending classes. He almost was sent to a school for problem students. But Marco Antionio changed his behavior. He says a talk with his mother helped him change. And he praises his teachers for the help they provided. But now, students at Garfield High no longer receive suspensions. The punishment itself has been suspended.

Jose Huerta, the Garfield High principal, took the action when he first arrived at Garfield more than four years ago. Back then, more than half the students were leaving school without finishing their studies. At the same time, Garfield was suspending nearly 700 students yearly. But, Mr, Huerta had other ideas about how to deal with young people who misbehave. He said most of the suspensions were for behavior know as “willful defiance.” He said that could include something as minor as chewing gum is class.

Under Mr. Huerta’s leadership, students involved in willful defiance first talk to a teacher. Then a parent may get involved. Finally, group support can be provided. Today, Garfield graduates 85 percent of its students. And last year, the Los Angeles Unified School District changed its punishment policy. The whole district banned suspension to punish students for willful defiance.

For VOA Learning English, I’m Alex Villarreal.