Previously, under California State law, schools were prohibited from suspending or recommending expelling students from school unless the school district superintendent or principal determined that the student was disruptive of school activities or otherwise willfully defying the valid authority of supervisors, teachers, or other school officials.
With the passage of AB 420, which was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown, and took effect Jan. 1, schools no longer have the authority to suspend students in kindergarten through grade 3.
Additionally, schools no longer have the ability to recommend the expulsion of students in kindergarten through grade 12 for disrupting school activities or otherwise willfully defying the school’s authority.
Exceptions to the new law include acts of violence, cause or threat of physical injury, property damage, theft, possession or selling drugs, alcohol, tobacco or nicotine products, hazing, and bullying, among others.
The intention of the law is to provide alternative actions to suspension or expulsion at the school’s discretion that are both age appropriate and have the goal of addressing and correcting the student’s specific misbehaviors.
Additionally, the goal of alternative behavior correction applies to students who are truant, tardy or otherwise absent from school.
According to Southern California Grantmakers, a proponent of the law, approximately half of all suspensions in the State are for willful defiance or disruption, and in 2012, there were in excess of 600,000 suspensions.
The group makes the argument that suspensions are harmful, and are essentially an unsupervised vacation. According to their research, most effects of suspension are negative and increase student’s likelihood to drop out of school or enter the juvenile justice system. They also argue that suspensions are typically based on subjective judgments of behavior.
School districts in Los Angeles and San Francisco have already adopted similar measures prior to the law’s enactment.
For more information on AB 420, click here.