Students and Community Vow to Keep Fighting ‘Willful Defiance’ Suspensions

Assemblyman Roger Dickinson spoke to students at a rally for civil rights in Sacramento.

Assemblyman Roger Dickinson spoke to students at a rally for civil rights in Sacramento.

Students, parents, educators, law enforcement members, judges, civil rights leaders, and community members won’t stop the fight against school suspensions for willful defiance after Assemblyman Roger Dickinson said he will wait to send AB 420 to the Governor until after the New Year.

Assemblyman Dickinson said he wants more time to educate school leaders about alternatives to harsh discipline and to ensure that the bill is strong and ready for immediate implementation when it becomes law. AB 420 is now a “two year bill,” meaning legislators can take action as early as January 2014.

The bill’s supporters say the need for action is more urgent than ever. Suspensions for willful defiance are a serious civil rights issue that disproportionately affect students of color, LGBTQ youth, and students with disabilities. Without AB 420, we will see suspension gaps growing as some districts move ahead and others lag behind.

According to Eva Paterson, president of the Equal Justice Society, who signed a letter of support for AB 420 with other national civil rights leaders:

Disparities in the imposition of school discipline for students of color and students with disabilities are part of the school to prison pipeline. Making school discipline more fair is a major civil rights challenge for the 21st century. Assembly Bill 420 will be an important step toward equal treatment for all California students.

Laura Faer, statewide education rights director for Public Counsel and a co-sponsor of the bill, said:

Suspensions for willful defiance only make our crime rates go up and our prison population grow.  Even one suspension can make it three times more likely that a student will end up in the juvenile justice system and five times more likely that he or she will drop out.  Our state can’t afford this terrible school-to-prison pipeline.  Already, we have so many prisoners that we have to consider shipping them to other states.  It is time to focus on in-school solutions that help students be successful, not outdated forms of punishment that have no research behind them and only make our state’s problems worse.

Students, parents will continue to build support for changing the “willful defiance” category that accounts for more than 40% of out of school suspensions and puts too many on the jailhouse track.

On the grassroots level, we will continue to gather data and learn from the examples of parents, teachers and administrators who are implementing alternatives to out of school suspension.

We need your support to keep the drive alive. Here’s what you can do!


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