Bill Would Limit Category Used in 40% of California Suspensions

Students spoke out at the Capitol last year

Students spoke out at the Capitol last year.

Assemblyman Roger Dickinson has introduced a bill that would limit the use of the broadest category of student suspensions: “willful defiance.” California data shows that more than 40% of out-of-school suspensions are for this one area, and more Latino and African American students are held out of school for “willfully defying” authorities than other students. Willful defiance can cover behavior such as violating a dress code or talking back to a teacher, and educators have asked for better guidance in how it is used.

Assembly Bill 420 would change the education code so that students could never be expelled for willful defiance, and suspending the youngest students in K-8 for willful defiance or disruption of school activities would not be allowed. For high school students, administrators would have to provide common-sense, research-based discipline alternatives such as positive behavior support for the first two times a student is willfully defiant. Students would only receive an out-of-school suspension on the third episode of “defiance.”

Public Counsel Education Advocate Sarah Omojola told Ed Source: “We are concerned that students who are having some issues are caught early and are identified for other services such as counseling. Suspending them can exacerbate the problems.”

Students’ and civil rights’ advocates have been in discussions with school administrators and school board leaders to develop common-sense alternatives to overly broad and harsh policies such as “willful defiance.” Ed Source reported that California teachers and administrators will receive training on new policies. “A lot is happening behind the scenes,” said Laura Preston, a lobbyist for school administrators.

AB 420 is co-sponsored by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids California, Children Now, Public Counsel, and Brothers Sons Selves.

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