California Bill Would Ban Student Suspensions for Defying Teachers, Disrupting Classes

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A California Senate bill introduced last week would ban schools from suspending students who disrupt class or defy teachers—known as willful defiance suspensions.

Senate Bill 274 introduced by Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) said such suspensions lead to students dropping out and exacerbate learning loss at a time when many are still behind due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Skinner also said such suspensions disproportionately affect Black male students, citing a 2018 study that reported they are three times more likely to be suspended for willful defiance than the statewide average.

“SB 274 is based on a simple premise: students belong in school,” Skinner said in a Feb. 1 press release. “Instead of kicking them out of school, we owe it to students to figure out what’s causing them to act out and help them fix it.”

The new bill builds on Skinner’s 2019 now-passed legislation, which permanently banned willful defiance suspensions statewide for grades TK–5 and those for grades 6–8 until 2025.

The new bill would permanently prohibit them for all grades, TK–12, by the fall of 2024.

It would also ban the suspension or expulsion of students because of tardiness or truancy.

“The punishment for missing school should not be to miss more school,” Skinner said. “Students, especially those with behavioral issues, need to be in school where teachers and counselors can help them succeed.”

However, others argue that keeping students who misbehave in classrooms makes it hard for teachers to teach and other students to learn.

Davina Keiser, a retired educator who taught for 40 years in the Long Beach Unified School District, told the Epoch Times that disruptive behavior was “detrimental to the learning of everybody else in the classroom.”

“It’s almost like a license for the rest of the kids to go ahead and misbehave,” she said.

Keiser still serves as a substitute teacher for the district and is the president of the education nonprofit Del Rey Education.

By Micaela Ricaforte

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