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%.