SACRAMENTO, CA – Today California becomes the first state in the nation to eliminate suspensions for its youngest children, and all expulsions for all students for minor misbehavior such as talking back, failing to have school materials and dress code violations. Gov. Jerry Brown’s signing today of AB 420 caps a landmark year for the movement away from harsh discipline policies and toward positive discipline and accountability approaches that keep children in school.
AB 420 places limits on the use of school discipline for the catch-all category known as “willful defiance,” which also includes minor school disruption. Willful defiance accounts for 43% of suspensions issued to California students, and is the suspension offense category with the most significant racial disparities. For the next 3.5 years, the law eliminates in-school and out-of-school suspensions for children in grades K-3 for disruptive behavior currently captured in Education Code section 48900(k) and bans all expulsions for this reason. The bill was co-sponsored by Public Counsel, Children Now, Fight Crime Invest in Kids, and the ACLU of California and supported by a statewide coalition of organizations.
The signing of AB 420 is the latest in a series of influential local and state reforms and milestones to reform harsh, disciplinary practices in California in 2014, including:
- New agreements between school policing agencies and school districts to limit the filing of criminal charges and citations against students for minor infractions and instead refer them to counseling and other support services and put in place other protections. These agreements are now in place in Los Angeles, Oakland, Pasadena, and San Francisco Unified School Districts.
- Decisions by a growing number of school boards to go beyond AB 420 and ban the use of the catch-all category of “willful defiance” as a cause for suspensions and expulsions and instead rely on the other 24 more specific rationales for suspension spelled out in the California Education Code. These policies have been adopted by San Francisco and Los Angeles (all grades, suspension and expulsion), Oakland (expulsion), and Azusa Unified School District (phased out over the next 3 years).
- A first-in-the-nation decision by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing to require training in best practices in classroom management and positive school discipline for new school principals and administrators.
- Significant investments in positive school discipline programs and strategies under the state’s new Local Control Funding Formula law that includes a new requirement that schools reduce suspensions and expulsions, develop specific strategies for doing so, and monitor data as a way of assessing “school climate” and the quality of the learning environment.
- A sharp decline in suspensions, with a 14.1% decrease in suspensions in the 2012-13 school year and a 27% drop in the last three years, according to California Department of Education data released in January.
California’s coalition of state and local school discipline reform parents, educators, students, community, law enforcement, civil rights leaders will continue to work toward:
- Ending the use of “willful defiance” suspensions for all students, not just young children
- Increased state funding for positive school discipline approaches including Positive Behavior Intervention and Restorative Practices
- Promoting best practices in schools, including reforms in teacher and administrator training,
- Developing stronger Local Control Accountability Plans that include funding and training for alternative discipline practices
- Reducing use of all suspensions for any reason by at least 80% by 2020
Being out of class does not serve a student nor does it teach him/her anything about altering behavior issues.
Especially for younger students, it can be devastating. ( I know a child - who in these first weeks of school as an SPS kindergartener - is having trouble adjusting and threw a block at another child. The school suspended him for a day and want his parents to change to half-day K. He's white and he's five years old. I couldn't believe it. They are fighting back and have enrolled him in a social learning program and have asked the district for help as well. It can't be the first time in the history of the world that a kindergartener was having adjustment programs.)
The one caveat is that teachers MUST be supported with multiple resources. It is unclear to me in reading this if a child can be ordered out of the classroom (which is not suspension, just "go to the office.") But yes, there are kids who have some behavior issues and that can be helped but in the meantime, with larger class sizes, teachers are going to need those tools. Otherwise, you'll have some real issue with crowd control.