New Law Restricts School Discipline

Vrinda Chauhan, Asst. A&E Editor

Talking back to the teacher or refusing to work in class won’t get you in as much trouble anymore in California. Last September, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill which was implemented on Jan. 1, limiting the use of suspensions for K-3 students and expulsions for all students and bestowing leniency in terms of punishment among all high school students of California.

Brown signed bill AB 420 into law, making California the first kindergarten and third grade over actions that “[disrupt] school activities or otherwise willfully [defy] the valid authority of school staff.” Expulsions are also no longer allowed for students above third grade for backtalk or refusal to work.

According to Vice Principal John Terry, the new law will have little effect on Diamond Bar discipline policies.

“Since I’ve been here at Diamond Bar High School, I have never expelled for this violation, so it doesn’t really impact us. Kids for the most part follow directions,” Terry said.

This law is geared toward counteracting seemingly heavy punishments for trivial rule violations. The bill addresses the rising statistics of public school disciplinary actions, such as suspensions for high school students, which have reached about 750,000 a year, as well as expulsions, which are up to 8,500 per year. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, “willful defiance” makes up 43 percent of suspensions in public schools. This category also contains the highest racial disproportions. According to EdSource, an educational site, African-Americans made up only six percent of total enrollment in California public schools but a whopping 19 percent of suspensions for defiance.

“California is now the first state in the nation to take badly-needed measures to curtail suspensions and expulsions for minor misbehavior in our schools,” Assemblyman Roger Dickinson said in a prepared statement. “Kids who have been suspended or expelled are two times more likely to drop out and five times more likely to turn to crime. Rather than kicking students out of school, we need to keep young people in school on track to graduate, and out of the criminal justice system.”

The new law was enacted in order to help children “re-engage” after defying classroom rules, while also supporting teachers’ efforts in the classroom. Additionally, Brown hopes to reduce California’s average drop-out rates and increase daily average attendance, thus providing the state with more funds.

Brown previously vetoed a similar bill, AB2242 because he did not wish to “support limiting the authority of local school leaders.” However, unlike bill AB2242, this new law was narrowed to only prohibit willful defiance suspensions for students in kindergarten through 3rd grade. Additionally, the new law encourages less austere disciplinary measures for problematic behavior by giving high school students three offenses of willful defiance before suspending them.