CA State Senate passes bill to amend school suspension policies

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On Monday, the California State Senate passed SB 607 — spearheaded by State Senator Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley — which eliminated “willful defiance” as justification for suspension and expulsion of students in grades K-12.

SB 607, titled the “Keep Kids in School Act,” acknowledged that student suspensions can be counterintuitive to a child’s education, but also preserved a teacher’s right to suspend a student on appropriate grounds, according to a press release.

“It’s very important to do our best for our kids to succeed, and so if there are alternatives for discipline, that’s really what we’re trying to get out,” Skinner said. “I was very pleased to see the bill receive bipartisan support. (SB 670) confirms a number of what our larger school districts are already doing.”

Ruth Cusick, a senior staff attorney at Public Counsel, a pro-bono law firm that co-sponsored the bill, said SB 607 was follow-up legislation to AB 420, a bill that removed “willful defiance” as grounds for suspension for K-3 students. Cusick added that SB 607 works towards Public Counsel’s goal of closing the “racial discipline gap” in the educational system where students of color are “punished disproportionately.”

President of the Berkeley Unified School District Board of Education Ty Alper said in an email that although the district does not suspend many students for willful defiance, the new bill will help other school districts advance towards progressive disciplinary strategies.

“What is critical, both for Berkeley and other districts, is that we replace traditional exclusionary discipline with meaningful alternatives that gives students, teachers, and administrators the tools to address both the root causes of problematic behavior and to repair the harm done when students misbehave,” Alper said in an email.

Marc Philpart, a senior director at PolicyLink, advocated for suspension and expulsion to be replaced with restorative justice practices, such as trauma-informed care, positive behavior interventions and social and emotional learning. Philpart said he believes progress is most effective when reforms become systemwide and practiced by students, teachers and administrators alike.

Brad Strong, senior director of education policy at Children Now, said he believes suspension and expulsion can “exacerbate the school-to-prison pipeline” because such administrative policies send students on a trajectory towards dropping out and other “high-risk” activities.

Strong also said he believes implicit and explicit bias can play a role in racial disparities of suspension rates for students of color, especially when concerning Black and Latinx students.

Philpart added that suspension and expulsion is too costly for schools and school districts because funding for California public schools is partially tied to their number of students in daily attendance.

“Willful defiance is too costly to the students, to the schools and school districts at the end of the day,” Philpart said. “In addition to those losses in revenue, the life of the young person is irreparably altered.”


Contact Francesca Munsayac at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @fcfm_dc.

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  • Sheng Long

    Why don’t progressives ever believe that parents should be involved with education? When I was a kid I didn’t get suspended because my parents would’ve killed me. That’s how it’s supposed to work.

    Also, if school discipline is biased against minorities why weren’t Asian-Americans who make up 15% of CA students mentioned? It couldn’t be because the data shows white kids getting suspended at a higher rate?

  • jim hoch

    Note the complete lack of any mention of the other kids in class trying to learn something. They rate 0.

  • T Gonzalez

    Sad to see how schools have given up on kids. Discipline starts at home. Unfortunately too many parents want to be their children’s friends instead of being a parent. School districts and administrators are more than happy to create new positions that will use up tax payer cash. I remember my kid had an issue with one of these little rugrats that was bullying her. We informed the teacher about the situation and were told that the kids parents would be notified. A week later my kids tells me again that the same bully had continued his behavior towards her. I then told my kid to fight back and kick him where it hurts. And wouldn’t you know it actually worked lol!!! That’s what we did in the old days and it worked. No need for hugs or cuddles from administrators just a good old butt kicking.

  • Concernedresidentofearth

    With all the technology at our disposal, there’s really no reason to impose the defiant and destructive on classes filled with students that want to learn. And there’s no reason to suspend students either, which puts them further behind. Let every school have an isolated area with private study cubicles that have video feeds of the classrooms. The defiant and destructive can get their mandated education in isolation without disturbing others.

    • Rhein Ouaiffe

      Good idea. Though we might need to chain those kids to your study cubicles. Otherwise they’ll be dancing on the desks, making noise, fighting and flirting — the same things that got them banned from the regular classroom. In fact, when you create a study area with restraints like that, you’ve got a de facto juvenile prison.

      • Concernedresidentofearth

        It’s up to the individuals to develop the self control to not ruin the educational experiences of others.

        The alternative, as others have pointed out, is the end of public education. Then you would see segregation that would make the pre-civil rights era look down right pleasant.

        • Rhein Ouaiffe

          OK. At what point will we know that your “individuals” have failed to develop self control?

  • JB

    Hear that sucking sound? Its the middle and functional classes abandoning public schools.

  • lspanker

    On Monday, the California State Senate passed Senate Bill 607 — spearheaded by State Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley — which eliminated “willful defiance” as justification for suspension and expulsion of students in grades K-12.

    LIberal Democrats are either crazy or stupid… which one is it?

    • Bob Bell

      Why can’t it be both?

      • lspanker

        You may have a point…