Newsom Signs Bill Banning School Suspensions for ‘Willful Defiance’

SACRAMENTO -- Students who act out in school will be staying put in their classrooms thanks to a new bill signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom Monday.

Senate Bill 419 bans elementary and middle schools from suspending students for “willful defiance.”

“Students who are being resistant in a non-violent way, perhaps verbally, talking back to the teacher or not responding to a command,” said Troy Flint, a spokesman for the California School Boards Association.

Flint said CSBA backs the bill because of growing evidence that students of color and those with disabilities are being punished more often for acting out.

“It’s really important because when kids aren’t in school, they're not learning,” Flint told FOX40.

Data from the California Department of Education shows while black students make up just under 6% of the school population, they account for nearly 16% of all “willful defiance” suspensions.

Some worry instituting a ban without requiring more training for teachers simply will not work.

“It should be done with early academic intervention,” said Nikki Milevski, a school psychologist and the vice president of the Sacramento City Teachers Association. “It should be done with all of our schools being provided with some mental health services for our students, school nurses to have early intervention programs and then training.”

Milevski said school staff needs cultural and implicit bias training to make the legislation work, as well as training on de-escalation techniques other than suspension.

“We need our school districts to prioritize the funding and resources to our school sites to support our students,” she said.

While districts discuss the details of putting this new law into practice, parents are also split on the decision.

“If they do something wrong, they should get in trouble for it. Being suspended, it's a good thing, you know, so a child learns how to act right,” said parent Tim Summy.

“They’re children. They’re growing and learning. To suspend them from school isn’t helping them at all,” said parent Everett Redington.

The bill goes into effect on July 1, 2020.

For grades six through eight, the ban is somewhat of a trial, so it only lasts through 2025.

This applies to all public and charter schools.

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