Expansion of Ban of Suspensions for Willful Defiance

October 2019

Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed into law Senate Bill 419 (SB 419), which expands the existing ban on suspending students for willful defiance.

Willful defiance is defined by the Education Code as disrupting school activities or otherwise willfully defying the valid authority of school personnel engaged in the performance of their duties. This broad definition has been interpreted to encompass misconduct such as failure to follow directions, failure to bring materials to class, and talking back to teachers.

Existing law, codified at Education Code section 48900(k), prohibits district schools from suspending students in kindergarten through third grade for willful defiance, but allows such suspensions of students in higher grades.

SB 419, which will take effect July 1, 2020, amends Education Code section 48900(k) to expand the ban to include students in grades four through eight. The ban for students in grades six through eight will end on July 1, 2025, unless a subsequent statute deletes or extends that date. The new law also adds section 48901.1 to the Education Code, which specifies that the ban applies to charter schools in addition to district schools.

With the passage of SB 419, school districts and charter schools should consider:

• Revising student discipline board policies and administrative regulations to reflect the expanded ban;
• Updating relevant forms, including student handbooks, parent notices, and websites;
• Notifying and training responsible staff on the new disciplinary limitations, as well as alternative interventions for students in higher grades for whom suspensions for willful defiance are no longer available.

If you have any questions regarding SB 419 or other student discipline matters, please contact one of our six offices.

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