California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) is poised to sign a bill into law that would prohibit both traditional public and charter schools in the state from suspending students in grades K-8 for willfully defiant behavior.

Senate Bill 419 intends to address racial disparities in school discipline.

The Sacramento Bee reported:

Students of color are disproportionately suspended for unruly behavior in California schools. Black students made up just 5.6 percent of the total enrollment for academic year 2017-18, yet accounted for 15.6 percent of total suspensions for willful defiance, according to the education department.

By contrast, white students made up 23.2 percent of total enrollment and accounted for 20.2 percent of suspensions for willful defiance.

“These particular kinds of suspension are being used to harm young people and especially black people in particular,” said David Turner, with the Brothers, Sons, Selves Coalition, part of the Alliance for Boys and Men of Color, which cosponsored the bill.

“When we talk about racial equity, this bill is racial equity,” he said.

Turner said that when his group helped to implement Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) ban on willful defiance suspensions for students in all grades, the number of suspensions fell, and the number of students who graduated rose.

The Bee reported the California Department of Education says school suspensions for disruptive behavior have decreased substantially since an initial ban was enacted in 2015.


The legislation would expand the existing law that bans suspensions for willful defiance by students in grades K-3.

Instead of suspending students who are disruptive, the measure urges schools to use “restorative justice practices, trauma-informed practices, social and emotional learning, and schoolwide positive behavior interventions and support” to manage behaviors that are disturbing to classrooms and the school community.

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