After hearing from Californians from all corners of the state concerned with harsh school discipline rules, Governor Jerry Brown has given his stamp of approval to five bills to fix some of the worst problems. He signed the final bill, AB 1909, just hours before the Sept. 30 deadline, to ensure that social workers and other adults who support foster youth are notified when a student in the child welfare system is facing expulsion or other discipline.
Taken together, these five new laws will give school administrators new tools to help students at risk of suspension or expulsion and reduce the more than 400,000 students suspended and expelled every year.
“Numbers don’t lie. California has a serious school suspension problem that must be addressed at the state level,” said Laura Faer, Education Rights Director at Public Counsel, which co-sponsored several of the bills. “With the bills he signed, Gov. Brown has helped our state take an important step toward common sense discipline that works.”
During the legislative session, the bills won the support of parents, educators, law enforcement, civil rights groups, and elected school leaders from across the state. Los Angeles Unified School District , Oakland Unified School District and other districts passed resolutions or traveled to Sacramento to support the changes to school discipline rules.
Here is a full list of bills signed by Governor Brown:
- AB 1729 by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) changes existing law to strengthen the alternatives to suspension or expulsion and clarify that school removals should only happen after other means of correction fail to bring about proper conduct.
- AB 1909 by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) ensures that school districts provide notification to social workers or other county child welfare designees and the court-appointed attorney for the foster youth when a foster youth is pending expulsion.
- AB 2537 by Assemblymember V. Manuel Perez (D-Coachella) provides additional discretion to school administrators to use alternative means of correction in lieu of expulsion and further clarifies that possessing an imitation firearm, over-the-counter medicine or student’s prescription medicines are not “zero tolerance” offences that automatically require expulsion. It also eliminates an existing $500 fine imposed on a principal who fail to notify law enforcement of certain crimes allegedly committed by students.
- AB 2616 by Assemblymember Wilmer Carter (D-Rialto) will focus truancy reduction efforts on solutions with schools, students and parents that are shown to work, so that law enforcement and courts are used only as a last resort.
- SB 1088 by Senator Curren Price (D-Los Angeles) helps ensure that children who have had contact with the juvenile justice system are not barred from reenrollment and are immediately reenrolled in school.
Governor Brown also vetoed two critical bills related to school discipline.
AB 2242 would have limited the use of “willful defiance,” the education law category that accounts for more than 40 percent of California school children suspended.
SB 1235 would have given an optional hand up to schools that suspend more than 25 percent of their student population through free regional trainings for school leaders.
“In this time when schools with the highest suspensions rates need help to change the picture, the governor should support, not veto, bills like these,” said Faer. “We hope Gov. Brown will work with school communities in the next session to address these unmet challenges.”