Newsom bans suspending middle, high school students for “willful defiance.” Here’s why.

As the ban arrives, school suspensions for willful defiance are on the rise, data from the California Department of Education finds.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has banned suspending students in secondary public schools for engaging in “willful defiance,” siding with education reformers who argue that anti-disruption policies are inherently racist.

Driving the news: Newsom signed the bill, SB 274, banning ban “willful defiance” suspensions for middle and high school students.


  • The legislation prohibits suspensions and expulsions of students for reasons such as breaking dress code, talking back to a teacher, or using their phones in class.
  • This new law expands the existing ban on “willful defiance” suspensions permanently for students in kindergarten through fifth grade to now include middle and high schools as well.
  • Supporters of the bill argue that these suspensions disproportionately affect Black and Latino students, leading to reduced learning and higher dropout rates within these communities.
  • The aim of the bill is to shift the focus from punishment to understanding the underlying causes of students’ behavior and providing them with appropriate support.

On the other hand: Educators can still suspend students for more severe actions like physical violence, drug possession, theft, or bullying.

  • In 2012, former Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a similar legislation, citing the importance of local school leaders having discretion in setting classroom tone.
  • A few Republican lawmakers voted against SB 274 during the legislative process.
  • California Department of Education data shows that over the past decade, the number of total suspensions for all offenses has dropped by 58%, while “willful defiance” suspensions specifically have decreased by 94%.
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