California’s State Senate introduced a bill that would prohibit schools from suspending students who disrupt class or defy teachers.
State Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-CA) introduced Senate Bill 274 (SB 274). She said that suspensions “disproportionately” affect Black male students, citing a 2018 study that reported they are three times more likely to be suspended than the statewide average.
“SB 274 is based on a simple premise: students belong in school. 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,” Skinner said.
According to the study, “the statewide suspension rate for Black males is 3.6 times greater than the statewide rate for all students.”
Additionally, in 2019 Skinner passed a bill that permanently banned “willful defiance” suspensions statewide for grades 4-5 and 6-8. Senate Bill 419 (SB 419) was signed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) in 2019.
The bill was “designed to keep kids in school by eliminating willful defiance suspensions in grades 4-5 and banning them in grades 6-8 for five years.”
Unlike SB 419, the new bill would permanently ban willful defiance suspensions for all grades.
It would also ban the suspension of students because of excessive tardiness or truancy.
“The punishment for missing school should not be to miss more school. Students, especially those with behavioral issues, need to be in schools where teachers and counselors can help them succeed,” Skinner stated
Opponents of SB 274 argue that keeping students who repeatedly misbehave in classrooms makes it harder for teachers to do their job.
Davina Keiser, a retired educator who taught in the Long Beach Unified School District, said that misbehavior 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 added.
A #California Senate bill would ban schools from suspending students who disrupt class or defy teachers—known as willful defiance suspensions.
“It’s almost like a license for the rest of the kids to go ahead and misbehave,” one teacher said. https://t.co/LoyeyoGt3h
— The Epoch Times (@EpochTimes) February 11, 2023
SB 274 is a means of replacing disciplinary actions with “restorative justice”, which focuses on meditation over punishment.
Lance Christensen, vice president of education policy at the California Policy Center, said that a lack of discipline may cause students to “act out in a larger measure later.”
“When these bills take away the tools for dealing with those who are willfully defiant, all they do is just move the violence to a higher level and escalate the violence,” he said.
Furthermore, as California attempts to ban suspensions for students, nearly 44% of schools reported that they are receiving threats of violence and an uptick in misbehavior from students, according to Education Week.