Proposed bill aimed to ban schools from suspending students for 'willful defiance' worries parents

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) -- A proposed bill making its way through the California State Legislature aims to ban school suspensions for students who willfully defy a teacher, school staff or administrator has some parents concerned.

"That is going to tell other kids...go ahead and hit them or do what you want because you aren't going to get in trouble and that is not OK," said parent Laura Vogt.

Senate Bill 419 would ban public and charter schools from suspending students in grades 4-8 for disruptive behavior or defiance. It will also include 9th-12th grade students until January 2025. The law already bans suspending students in grades K-3.

Lawmakers backing the bill say suspensions disproportionately affect students of color, those with disabilities and those who identify as LGBTQ.

The California Department of Education data shows expulsions are decreasing across the state. Riverside and San Bernardino counties have double the expulsion rate than that of Orange and Los Angeles counties.

Data from the Inland Empire for 2018 shows African-American students makeup 16% of expulsions. Hispanic and Latino students make up more than half with 63% of expulsions.

The new bill does include language that would leave it up to the superintendent or school principal to come up with an alternative to school suspension.

Students could still be expelled for threatening violence, bringing a weapon or drugs to campus, or damaging school property. If the bill passes it will head to Governor Gavin Newsom's desk to be signed and would take effect in July 2020.
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