Credit: AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli
Gov. Gavin Newsom discusses his revised 2019-2020 state budget proposal during a news conference on May 9 in Sacramento.

Beginning next July, teachers in California will no longer be allowed to suspend elementary and middle school students from school for disrupting classroom activities or defying school authorities, as the result of a law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday.

Current law already bans out-of-school suspensions in grades K-3 as a result of a 2013 law signed by former Gov. Jerry Brown.  But Brown held the line on extending the ban to higher grades, where by far the majority of suspensions occur, and vetoed several bills that tried to do just that.

But Newsom appears to have had no hesitation signing Senate Bill 419, authored by state Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, that will cover all elementary grades (K-5) and for a five-year trial period include middle school grades (6 to 8).

Photo: Courtesy of Sen. Skinner

Senator Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley

“Ending willful defiance suspensions will keep kids in school where they belong and where teachers and counselors can help them thrive,” Skinner said.

Under state law, teachers would still be allowed to suspend students from their classrooms for up to two days as long as they remained in school by participating in what is known as an “in-school” suspension program. Students would remain under school supervision where they are expected to participate in activities that address the behavior that led to their being removed from the classroom.

A principal concern of Skinner’s, and other child advocates who backed her bill, was the fact that disruption and willful defiance — vague categories that are subject to a range of interpretations — have had a disproportionate impact on African American students, males especially. When they are pushed out of school, they are more likely to come into contact with law enforcement, at times with disastrous consequences.

“No student should be set back in their education for something as minor as chewing gum or talking in class,” said Angela McNair Turner, an attorney at Public Counsel, a public interest law firm that for years has been working to reduce suspensions and expulsions from California schools. “SB 419 is a huge step forward in addressing equity in schools across the state and eliminating the school to prison pipeline for youth in grades K-8, but there are still nearly 19,000 students who were suspended for defiance in the 2017-2018 school year who will not have these protections.”

Several of the state’s largest districts, including Los Angeles Unified, Oakland and San Francisco, have already abolished the use of willful defiance suspensions entirely. As a result, the number of students suspended for willful defiance and disruption has plummeted in California to one-sixth the level they were a half dozen years ago.

Based on what happened in Los Angeles, newly elected board member Jackie Goldberg suggested the law would have a similar impact across the state. “SB 419 will result in less instructional days lost due to suspensions, improved academic outcomes and school climate, and it will lead to fewer students to drop out of school and enter the juvenile justice system,” she said.

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  1. Kay 20 hours ago20 hours ago

    I was well trained in California. I earned a life credential. I’ve taught in many states. I’m so grateful that I’m at the end of my career. When these students meet a police officer/judge, we have done them a disservice. Please hold all accountable. It will serve them well in the end.

  2. Roselia 1 week ago1 week ago

    I certainly hope that the governor plans to support this bill with giving every school an in-school suspension room and adequate personnel that it takes to help. Extra counselors on the school sites to deal with the behavior from students who are dealing with trauma and a suspension room to help with the kids who refuse to even stay in the classroom – those who get in trouble for having explosive tempers and throw … Read More

    I certainly hope that the governor plans to support this bill with giving every school an in-school suspension room and adequate personnel that it takes to help. Extra counselors on the school sites to deal with the behavior from students who are dealing with trauma and a suspension room to help with the kids who refuse to even stay in the classroom – those who get in trouble for having explosive tempers and throw desks across classrooms, use profanity and threaten other students.

    That is what students are usually suspended for. Gum chewing – let’s get real: Teachers don’t really fight that battle unless it is a school with very respectful students who have nothing else to get in trouble about.

  3. Rich 1 week ago1 week ago

    Ouch. Anyone who signs for this should go in and try to teach a class for 30 days while hosting 5 disruptive students. You have no idea what it is like and what a nightmare it creates for the 25 out of 30 students who are mainly on task . 50% of the teacher's time will now be taken up dealing with misbehavior instead of teaching. This will lead to further … Read More

    Ouch. Anyone who signs for this should go in and try to teach a class for 30 days while hosting 5 disruptive students. You have no idea what it is like and what a nightmare it creates for the 25 out of 30 students who are mainly on task . 50% of the teacher’s time will now be taken up dealing with misbehavior instead of teaching. This will lead to further difficulties in teacher recruitment and retention, early retirement and mental health.

    Unintended consequences of ruling by Fiat from afar. As part of the legislation, legislators should be required to visit and guest teach in a disrupted classroom for 14 days. It may awaken some feeling of charity toward teachers, rather than blaming them.

  4. Darryl Chriss 1 week ago1 week ago

    As an African American educator, I believe that Governor Newsom's support of Senator Skinner's Senate Bill 419 creates a gross injustice for all students who arrive in the classroom with a genuine willingness and desire to learn. Senate Bill 419 lowers the quality of public education for students and parents who cannot afford to provide their children with private education. Senate Bill 419 ignores the fact that students with disciplinary problems disrupt instruction and distract … Read More

    As an African American educator, I believe that Governor Newsom’s support of Senator Skinner’s Senate Bill 419 creates a gross injustice for all students who arrive in the classroom with a genuine willingness and desire to learn. Senate Bill 419 lowers the quality of public education for students and parents who cannot afford to provide their children with private education. Senate Bill 419 ignores the fact that students with disciplinary problems disrupt instruction and distract the learning process of students in classrooms across the country on a daily basis. Why should students of all ethnicities with genuine interests in learning be deprived of consistently sound education because policy makers fail to appropriately address the problem of disruptive students in their classrooms?

  5. Mary Ellen 1 week ago1 week ago

    “Ending willful defiance suspensions will keep kids in school where they belong and where teachers and counselors can help them thrive,” Skinner said.
    Ms. Skinner: Teachers and counselors cannot help them thrive if they don’t care about their education. In the meantime, the disruptors deprive other students the right to an education.

  6. Kateri Wentz 1 week ago1 week ago

    I feel that the problem children should have tutoring in any subject they are having problems with.

  7. John Fracker 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    Anybody with common sense knows this move will create a nightmare for good teachers and students and most likely dangerous. They should put all the trouble makers into highly monitored and secure areas and keep them there with each other for company. Yes much like a prison until they develop the needed coping skills to function in a classroom.

  8. NickelthroweR 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    I was a high school teacher 20 or so years ago. I did not stay in the profession very long because our school district wouldn't discipline the students for fear of losing them to a charter school. You could literally come to my class ten minutes late, tell me to F off and then sit in your seat and scream at the ceiling, and no one would do anything. Imagine what it must have … Read More

    I was a high school teacher 20 or so years ago. I did not stay in the profession very long because our school district wouldn’t discipline the students for fear of losing them to a charter school. You could literally come to my class ten minutes late, tell me to F off and then sit in your seat and scream at the ceiling, and no one would do anything.

    Imagine what it must have been like for the few students I had that actually wanted to learn. Public education is nothing more than prison for children run by the DMV.

  9. Allison 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    Thank God my kids are adults. If this had been established when they were kids, we’d have home-schooled (and my public school teacher parents would have left the profession).

  10. dave abrams 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    in a class of 25 to 35. one disruptive and/or defiant student is an educational disaster. As with any successful bully, the weak tend to follow his lead, the class will learn much less and the few disruptive students’ road to jail will be minimally delayed. Poor educational outcomes will continue to generate an underclass, not because of racism but an inability to compete.

  11. Kathy Nelson 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    As an educator for the past 38 years, I have to wonder when Angela McNair Turner was last in a classroom. Chewing gum ... talking in class?? We should be so lucky. Most of the defiant behavior becomes a safety issue for the other students and occasionally the teacher. Removing the student from the class not only (hopefully) changes the misbehaviors but also allows the other 28+ students an opportunity to … Read More

    As an educator for the past 38 years, I have to wonder when Angela McNair Turner was last in a classroom. Chewing gum … talking in class?? We should be so lucky. Most of the defiant behavior becomes a safety issue for the other students and occasionally the teacher. Removing the student from the class not only (hopefully) changes the misbehaviors but also allows the other 28+ students an opportunity to actually learn without constant disruptions. The majority of the teacher’s time is spent on classroom management. Imagine what we could accomplish if “chewing gum” were the worst of our worries.

  12. mario benvenuti 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    How about the rights of and concerns for the “non-disruptive” students?

  13. Karl 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    The idea of in-school suspension is not a new one, but it does require staffing to manage. And staff development is the key to effective in-school programs where students can reflect on their behavior, and actually "earn" their way back into the classroom. We forget that disruptive students (not gum-chewers etc.) take away the audience from the teacher. But then in California the idea that most of the kids who follow the rules and behave … Read More

    The idea of in-school suspension is not a new one, but it does require staffing to manage. And staff development is the key to effective in-school programs where students can reflect on their behavior, and actually “earn” their way back into the classroom. We forget that disruptive students (not gum-chewers etc.) take away the audience from the teacher. But then in California the idea that most of the kids who follow the rules and behave (yes a little discipline here) are the ones that suffer when instruction is impeded by true defiance of authority.

    No one benefits by giving students the “day off” at home, but if the CDE and the Legislature want this alternative for disruptive students, then plan to pay for it. Easier said than done.

  14. Bo Loney 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    Recruiting more male teachers would be great. Are we working on that?

  15. Casey 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    I’d love to know where Mr. Freedberg got his information that students would “likely participate in activities that address their behavior.” Who is running that program at schools where there is so little money that teachers are having to provide paper and pencils for their classes out of their own personal funds? And while he is correct that students of color being suspended at higher rates than their white counterparts, I’d love some … Read More

    I’d love to know where Mr. Freedberg got his information that students would “likely participate in activities that address their behavior.” Who is running that program at schools where there is so little money that teachers are having to provide paper and pencils for their classes out of their own personal funds? And while he is correct that students of color being suspended at higher rates than their white counterparts, I’d love some data on how many students have been suspended for talking and gum-chewing. That is ridiculous propaganda aimed at making teachers look like racist extremists.

    I also want to know who is responsible for teaching humans that defying authority comes with consequences in our society. Parents aren’t doing it. Teachers are quickly being limited in their ability to do it. But police officers can arrest, physically harm, and even kill people for defying authority. As a parent, I’d rather have my kid learn in 4-6th grade that defying authority has consequences as opposed to having her find that out for the first time at the hands of law enforcement.

  16. Stephanie Eckard 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    This is another example of teachers being pushed to do the job parents should be doing. My daughter works for the school district. It is absolutely unbelievable how much these kids ignore authority already. These are children who feel entitled to do anything and everything. As we continue to remove consequences for disruptive behavior, we have empowered a generation to do as they please and never being accountable for it. Has everyone forgotten the discipline we … Read More

    This is another example of teachers being pushed to do the job parents should be doing. My daughter works for the school district. It is absolutely unbelievable how much these kids ignore authority already. These are children who feel entitled to do anything and everything.

    As we continue to remove consequences for disruptive behavior, we have empowered a generation to do as they please and never being accountable for it.

    Has everyone forgotten the discipline we had at home and at school growing up 35-40 years ago. We actually had to behave and have respect. We are living proof that consequences for actions helped us be assets to our community. We made it through and didn’t drop out or become criminals

    I’m so glad my children are now grown, thank God things were not as they are now. It’s my grandchildren I worry about.

    At least I know they are being taught proper behavior and respect. I can’t speak for anyone else.

  17. Dr. Corigan Malloy 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    This is a questionable panacea that blindly blankets a deeper issue – the lack of adequate attention to mental health and poverty. How willful is willful and what recourse does a teacher now have to deal with a child who is blatantly disrespectful, cursing, spitting, and/or refusing to follow directions to stop miscreant behavior? In-school suspensions require personnel to oversee the lot of children who are now allowed to remain in school, often … Read More

    This is a questionable panacea that blindly blankets a deeper issue – the lack of adequate attention to mental health and poverty. How willful is willful and what recourse does a teacher now have to deal with a child who is blatantly disrespectful, cursing, spitting, and/or refusing to follow directions to stop miscreant behavior?

    In-school suspensions require personnel to oversee the lot of children who are now allowed to remain in school, often at the expense of already strained budgetary issues and the lack of restorative justice trained personnel. Suspensions have the dual effect of sending a clear message, and involving the parent, who is now also affected {not unlike the several adults and dozens of other children who have to ignore, tolerate, cower from, or experience trauma from Young Kenny who told a teacher to shut the “f” up – and not once, but several times}. Without substantial resources in place to transfer this negative energy out of the learning and teaching environment, everyone still suffers.

  18. Jim 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    Another reason for parents to leave traditional public schools. Parents prefer fewer disruptive students, not more.

  19. Shelli Greene 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    When the same students end up in the criminal justice system, hold up a mirror and blame yourself

  20. Robb Lash 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    This is highly disappointing especially since there are very few in school suspension programs that are effective. We won’t forget this, Governor.

  21. Jenn Lynn-Whaley, Ph.D. 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    While I'm in favor of the intent of this law, I would've strongly preferred that there had been legislation passed prior to this law that established fiscal commitment to school-based mental health and wellness supports - namely: professional development in trauma-informed approaches, inclusion of social-emotional learning curricula and fulltime counselors and clinicians who can see any student (not just Medi-Cal) at every school. This would allow school staff to develop the skills and expertise in … Read More

    While I’m in favor of the intent of this law, I would’ve strongly preferred that there had been legislation passed prior to this law that established fiscal commitment to school-based mental health and wellness supports – namely: professional development in trauma-informed approaches, inclusion of social-emotional learning curricula and fulltime counselors and clinicians who can see any student (not just Medi-Cal) at every school. This would allow school staff to develop the skills and expertise in supporting students – rather than reacting to suspension being ‘off the table’ as one comment notes.

    This is reminiscent of banning solitary confinement in the juvenile system without training officers in alternate management skills. Expensive? Yes – but not compared with the cost of housing a single child in CA’s juvenile system or the cost of lawsuits alleging inadequate resources for students with complex trauma, as Compton Unified has recently experienced. We keep talking about the effects of trauma on behavior – and yet we make no meaningful commitment to support strategies to address it. The science is all there. Budgets are moral documents.

  22. Dr. Bill Conrad 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    Maybe the pretend and racist problem of willful defiance could be solved with the willful improvement of adult professional practices! Has anyone considered that the students might be defying authority because they are being subjected to mind numbing curricula and professional practices by educators who come out of color in the lines colleges of education woefully unprepared to teach and effectively manage the children? The kids are generally fine and ready to learn! It is the … Read More

    Maybe the pretend and racist problem of willful defiance could be solved with the willful improvement of adult professional practices!

    Has anyone considered that the students might be defying authority because they are being subjected to mind numbing curricula and professional practices by educators who come out of color in the lines colleges of education woefully unprepared to teach and effectively manage the children?

    The kids are generally fine and ready to learn! It is the adults who are screwed up!

    Professions do not throw out their clients! Amateurs do though. Maybe it’s time for the neophyte K-12 system to grow up!

    Replies

    • Bo Loney 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

      Students of color are not the only students that are getting in trouble. I agree with you on how to some students the curriculum can be mind-numbing. Some students also are having a hard time. A lot of problems could be solved if the public school system would open its mind to researching Maria Montessori’s methods.

  23. Paul A Carmody 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    I anticipate large numbers of teachers will either retire or quit teaching as a result of this misguided law.

    Replies

    • Bill Conrad 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

      And that is a bad thing?
      Let’s transform the colleges of mis-education and recruit highly qualified teacher candidates and train them well in content and professional practices so we don’t have to reply on the malpractice of suspensions which according to Hattie actually subtract knowledge from children!
      Time for the old guard to step aside and if the end of suspensions catalyze the departure, so be it!

      • Bo Loney 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

        “Old Guard” is not necessarily the people that have been doing their best as teachers, but more the methodology. The education system was set up during the industrial age where we needed factory workers to sit down, be quiet and do their jobs. We need to revamp to the technological age. We need to free students minds. Maria Montessori was way ahead of her time.

      • Darryl Chriss 1 week ago1 week ago

        Indeed there is a need to broaden the curricula. Many colleges of education are doing their best to provide preservice teachers with instruction aligned to teaching in "urban" environments. The problem with colleges of education is that the majority of preservice teachers are still white and they are not interested in learning about issues that have to do with students of color. They are uncomfortable with the idea that issues that have to do students … Read More

        Indeed there is a need to broaden the curricula. Many colleges of education are doing their best to provide preservice teachers with instruction aligned to teaching in “urban” environments. The problem with colleges of education is that the majority of preservice teachers are still white and they are not interested in learning about issues that have to do with students of color. They are uncomfortable with the idea that issues that have to do students of color in the classroom are directly related to social exclusion and the prevalence of whiteness.

        Colleges of education would better serve public schooling by putting more emphasis into recruiting teacher candidates of color to teach in communities with high populations of students of color. However, too many students of color have no respect for teachers in general no matter whether they are of the same ethnicity of not; they are angry and hurt. But they still disrupt the learning process of students who are open and willing to learn.

    • Dr 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

      hear, hear!

  24. Carolyn Alexander 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    With suspension off the table, teachers need an alternative to eliminate “willful defiance.” Check out the above link to “The Communication Workshop,” a program that has produced immediate visible shifts in students from negative behavior to being responsible.