ACSA supports banning ‘willful defiance’ suspension
Board votes to support bill that would extend ban to grades 9-12
June 26, 2023
The 28 members of ACSA’s Board of Directors voted nearly unanimously last month to support Senate Bill 274, which would expand the prohibition of suspending or expelling students for “willful defiance” through grades 9-12.
The bill, authored by State Sen. Nancy Skinner, builds upon current law. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation in 2019 that banned suspensions of students in grades K-8 for willful defiance. SB 274 would extend that ban through grade 12.
ACSA’s Legislative Policy Committee, which consists of members from all ACSA regions, committees and councils, carefully reviewed the legislation and ultimately decided to refer the bill to the Board of Directors. The board discussed the bill at length and validated member concerns related to maintaining positive school environments and schools lacking resources needed to implement alternative strategies. Ultimately the board agreed that “willful defiance” as described in Education Code is too vague and allows for biased and disproportionate use of student discipline.
“While considering the potential implementation challenges in the field, ACSA’s board overwhelmingly supported SB 274 because they believe it strongly aligns with ACSA’s commitment to putting student interests first,” said ACSA Executive Director Edgar Zazueta.
Suspensions based on willful defiance disproportionately impact students of color and students with disabilities. Data from the California Department of Education show that African American, American Indian and Pacific Islander students are overrepresented in comparison to their enrollment numbers in willful defiance suspensions. In 2021-22, African American students made up 5.4 percent of student enrollment in the state, yet consisted of 12.1 percent of willful defiance suspensions.
“Ultimately, the board opted to walk the talk of ACSA’s mission statement and to advocate for and support what is best for students, rather than what is easiest for adults,” said ACSA Past President Charlie Hoffman.
The board recognizes that schools need more training and resources to implement alternative strategies (such as restorative justice and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) to willful defiance suspension.
The board has directed staff to advocate for more funding and to further implement such training into ACSA program offerings.
Learn More
Read the full bill language for Senate Bill 674.
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