ACLU Features Blog Discussing the Significance of Willful Defiance Punishments, State Legislation

By Claire Hsu

LONG BEACH, CA – The ACLU released a blog this past week featuring a Long Beach Unified School District school counselor discussing the negative consequences of willful defiance punishments on students and the significance of SB 274—now on the governor’s desk—for restricting the practice in schools.

SB 274 is geared to prohibit school punishment that keeps a student out of school for breaking school rules and to, instead, delve into the origin of such behaviors and seek a solution, writes CBS News.

Willful defiance pertains to any student action that school instructors or officials deem to impede school rules, explains the ACLU blog, noting schools tend to approach the situation by suspending students without considering what’s influencing the student to act this way.

Senator Nancy Skinner (D-East SF Bay), who authored the bill, said “the punishment for missing school should not be to miss more school… students, especially those with behavioral issues, need to be in school where teachers and counselors can help them succeed,” reports CBS News.

Senator Skinner first announced this bill Feb. 1, and then wrote SB 419, which also forbids suspensions due to willful defiance for students in grades K to 5 and disallows these punishments for students in grades 6 to 8 before 2025.

“SB 274 puts the needs of students first. Instead of kicking them out of school, we owe it to students to help them succeed,” asserts Skinner, according to SF Gate.

The practice of willful defiance punishments is especially harmful to people of color, writes the ACLU blog. According to SF Gate, students identified as African American and male receive penalization for willful defiance three times the average of students in California.

In addition, according to the senator’s team, suspensions based on willful defiance also negatively influence LGBTQ students and those who are disabled or going through the foster system, reports the SF Gate.

In the ACLU featured blog, a Long Beach Unified School District school counselor shares the story of a student referred to as Darryl, who, even with his determination to help Darryl, ultimately left school altogether due to repeated suspension, the school’s negligence to seeking the reasons behind his acts for a solution, and his distrust in the school.

SB 274 will work to disallow suspensions issued because of willful defiance in all public schools in California for grades 6 to 12, writes the SF Gate, and will be in effect ending in 2029.

According to the SF Gate, SB 274 will not allow instructors to keep students out of school for willful defiance, only take them out of a class, while school officials will work to seek the best solution and approach for the student.

“Suspending students no matter what the age, fails to improve student behavior and greatly increases the likelihood that the student will fail classes or drop out of school completely,” asserts Skinner, reports SF Gate.

About The Author

Claire Hsu is an undergraduate student at UC Davis majoring in Political Science and minoring in Sociology. She is interested in policies related to advocating for API rights and prisoner's rights across California. After graduation, Claire plans on attending law school and pursuing a career in law. She is most passionate about criminal law and intellectual property law.

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