Education /

Newsom Signs Bill Prohibiting 'Willful Defiance' Suspensions in High Schools

Lawmaker who drafted the bill says suspensions greatly increase the odds students will drop out

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed into a law a bill that bans “willful defiance” suspensions for middle and high school students who engage in disruptive behavior.

Senate Bill 274 was introduced by state Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) and will take effect July 1, 2024.

Under the new law, teachers are still able to remove a student from class for unruly behavior, but the student would not be allowed to be suspended from school. Instead, school administrators will be tasked with figuring out appropriate in-school interventions for the student.

In California, as well as other states across the U.S., willful defiance suspensions have typically been issued for low-level disruptions, such as wearing a baseball cap backwards, sleeping in class, or talking back to teachers, Skinner said in a statement.

“Since my start in the state Senate in 2016, I’ve worked to end willful defiance suspensions in our public schools. The reason is simple: Suspending students, no matter the age, doesn’t improve student behavior, and it greatly increases the likelihood that the student will fail or drop out,” said Skinner. “With Governor Newsom’s signing of SB 274, California is putting the needs of students first. No more kicking kids out of school for minor disruptions. Students belong in school where they can succeed.”

SB 274 has received support from more than 60 organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Alliance for Boys and Men of Color, and East Bay Community Law Center.

Opponents, however, view the new law as a step backwards for learning.

“Newsom has signed a bill prohibiting the suspension of high school students for ‘willful defiance.’ Students are now free to talk back, disobey instructions, and otherwise cause chaos in the classroom,” said California Rep. Kevin Kiley. “This will make it harder to recruit teachers and further erode the quality of education in California.”

In an op-ed denouncing the new legislation, Rick Moran blasted research cited by the LA Times in a piece about the bill, writing:

Naturally, according to the Times, “Supporters of the bill say Black and Latino students are disproportionately affected by these suspensions. Research shows that these students are often the ones who suffer a reduced loss of learning and experience higher drop-out rates.”

So the answer is to bring all students down to their level, impeding the learning progress of students of all colors? Is it any wonder parents — especially minority parents — are desperate to get their children out of these rat holes and into a school where they have a fighting chance to learn?

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