California Becomes First in the Nation to Limit Suspensions for Willful Defiance

By Julianne Hing Sep 29, 2014

Last week California became the first state in the country to ban the use of suspensions and expulsions for "willful defiance" for its youngest public school students, the Sacramento Bee reported.

California Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 420 into law on Saturday. The law bans California public schools from suspending or expelling kindergarten through third-grade students for offenses described as "willful defiance."

"Willful defiance" is a category of subjective and minor offenses that account for 43 percent of suspensions in California public schools, according to the ACLU. Every year California public schools issue more than 10,000 suspensions for willful defiance for students between kindergarten and third grade alone, the Los Angeles Times reported. It’s also the category of school offense with the highest racial disparities. 

In the 2012-2013 school year, African-Americans were just 6 percent of the state’s public school enrollment but made up a whopping 19 percent of those who received suspensions for willful defiance, EdSource reported. The bill, authored by a coalition of civil rights and community advocacy groups, comes alongside a growing national conversation about the school-to-prison pipeline and the overuse of school discipline.