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California could soon ban schools from suspending ‘unruly’ students

It could soon be illegal in California for schools to suspend students for being disruptive.

A bill banning that practice for K-12 students, in both public and charter schools, sailed to passage in the California Senate on Monday, 30-8. The bill moves on now to the Assembly.

“An overwhelming body of research confirms that suspending students at any age fails to improve student behavior and greatly increases the likelihood that the student will fail, be pushed out of school and/or have contact with the juvenile justice system,” wrote Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, who is the primary author of Senate Bill 419. “SB 419 helps keep students in school, increases student success rates, and increase high school graduation rates.”

Skinner also cited data showing that students of color, with disabilities or who are part of the LGBTQ community “are disproportionately suspended for low-level subjective offenses,” such as defiance and disruption.

According to the California Department of Education, black students in the 2017-18 school year made up 5.6 percent of the state’s student body, yet accounted for a fifth of all suspensions.

Under SB 419, schools would be permanently prohibited from suspending students for “willful defiance” of school staff for grades four through eight. Schools also would be prohibited from using those suspensions in grades nine through 12 until Jan. 1, 2025, unless the law is extended.

It’s already illegal for schools to suspend students for being disruptive for grades kindergarten through third.

The bill allows schools to retain the authority for teachers to suspend students from class for up to two days for disrupting school activities.

SB 419 is supported by a variety of civil rights, education and medical groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union of California, the California State PTA and the American Academy of Pediatrics, California.

It is opposed by the Charter School Development Center, though no statement of opposition was included in the bill analysis.

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