CBS Los Angeles
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New California law limits student suspensions for "willful defiance"

Sept. 11, 2019
Gov. Gavin Newsom signs into law a ban on suspending students in kindergarten through eighth grade for “willful defiance.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed into law a ban on suspending students in kindergarten through eighth grade for “willful defiance.”

CBS Los Angeles reports that the law, which goes into effect on July 1, 2020, prohibits schools from suspending students from kindergarten through eighth grade for showing “willful defiance” toward a teacher or administrator.

Teachers can still remove a student from a classroom, but not suspend the child.

“Willful defiance” suspensions are a “highly subjective” category of suspensions that could include a student doing something as innocuous as not removing a hat or sleeping in class, according to state Sen. Nancy Skinner, who sponsored the bill.

Skinner cited a 2018 report by UCLA and San Diego State that found black male students were suspended at nearly four times the student average in California, with “willful defiance” representing 15 percent of elementary school suspensions and 21 percent of middle school suspensions.

The new law is an expansion of a 2015 ban on these types of suspensions for students up to third grade. This new law permanently bans suspensions for grades four and five and restricts them for grades six through eight until 2025.

Students still are subject to suspension or expulsion for violent acts, such as injuring classmates or teachers, being in possession of a weapon or drugs, or damaging school or private property.

Skinner says a report by the U.S. Government Accounting Office found “implicit bias on the part of teachers and staff may cause them to judge students’ behaviors differently based on the students’ race and sex.”

“Ending willful defiance suspensions may be one of the best ways to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline,” Skinner says.

Large school districts such as Los Angeles Unified had already eliminated willful defiance suspensions. The new law will apply to traditional public schools and charter schools.

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