A California bill that has already passed the state Senate and Assembly Legislature would bar public schools, including charter schools, from suspending students for willful defiance.
SB 419, which was authored by California State Senator Nancy Skinner, who hails from Berkeley, states that existing law allows a student to be suspended if “the superintendent of the school district or the principal of the school in which the pupil is enrolled determines that the pupil has committed a specified act, including, among other acts, disrupting school activities or otherwise willfully defying the valid authority of supervisors, teachers, administrators, school officials, or other school personnel engaged in the performance of their duties.”
Then the bill adds, “The bill would additionally prohibit the suspension of a pupil enrolled in a school district or charter school in grades 4 and 5 for disrupting school activities or otherwise willfully defying the valid authority of those school personnel engaged in the performance of their duties. The bill, from July 1, 2020, until July 1, 2025, would prohibit the suspension of a pupil enrolled in a school district or charter school in any of grades 6 to 8, inclusive, for those acts.”
After listing a number of issues that would be cause for suspension, the bill adds, “For a pupil subject to discipline under this section, a superintendent of the school district or principal is encouraged to provide alternatives to suspension or expulsion, using a research-based framework with strategies that improve behavioral and academic outcomes, that are age appropriate …”
Jessie Ryan, President of the Sacramento City School Board, told KCRA, “The wonderful thing about restorative justice is that students quite often are given a minute to reset and be mindful of their actions. There is an opportunity to calm the classroom. It’s not just taking a route where you’re going directly from 0 to 100 by suspending a student, which we know doesn’t work.”
Skinner said she wants to reduce suspensions and expulsions “because our goal needs to be to keep kids in school and to have them be successful,” according to the Sacramento Bee. She wrote in mid-August, “Despite recent efforts to reduce California’s prison incarceration rates, severe racial disparities persist in our criminal justice system … Recent research strongly suggests that one way to reduce these disparate racial outcomes is to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline. Data show that black and brown youth are far more likely to be suspended from school than their white peers and long-term studies have revealed that students who are suspended for at least 10 days are less likely to graduate and more likely to be arrested and incarcerated by their mid-20s.”
In 2013, the city of Los Angeles passed a similar bill. The Los Angeles Times reported:
The proposal would ban suspensions of students for “willful defiance,” an offense criticized as a subjective catch-all for such behavior as refusing to take off a hat, turn off a cellphone or failing to wear a school uniform. The offense accounted for 48% of 710,000 suspensions issued in California in 2011-12, prompting state and local efforts to restrict its use in disciplinary actions.