A class at Stark Elementary School in Stamford, Conn., on March 10, 2021. (John Moore/Getty Images)
A California bill that would ban schools from suspending students who disrupt class or defy teachers—known as willful defiance suspensions—is one step away from becoming law.
The state Senate in May advanced Senate Bill 274, introduced by Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), in a 36–3 vote to the state Assembly, where it was placed Aug. 23 on the “suspense file”—a holding place for bills that require a significant fiscal expense.
However, the bill was resurrected in a 12–3 vote by the state Assembly’s fiscal committee Sept. 1 after which it ultimately passed on the Senate floor 32–6 on Sept. 7.
It is now awaiting Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature in the coming weeks.
The new bill expands on Ms. Skinner’s 2019 now-passed legislation—which permanently banned such suspensions statewide for grades TK–8 until 2025—by extending such suspensions 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.
When she introduced the bill in a Feb. 1 press release
, Ms. Skinner argued 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.
State Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, chair of the Senate budget committee, calls for passage of the state budget at the Capitol in Sacramento on June 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Ms. 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,” Ms. Skinner said in the 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 proposed policy reflects a nationwide trend of replacing disciplinary actions with what’s called a “restorative justice” approach—which focuses on mediation over punishment.
However, Davina Keiser, a retired educator who taught for 40 years in the Long Beach Unified School District, told the Epoch Times in a previous interview
that disruptive behavior was often “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.
Ms. Keiser still serves as a substitute teacher for the district and is the president of the education nonprofit Del Rey Education.
“As teachers, I wanted students to know that there are boundaries, and they have to stay within those,” she said. “I always felt like it didn’t matter if a student is an ethnic minority or not. We’re supposed to provide equal opportunity for all students. And we’re supposed to treat them all with the same respect, care, and consequences.”