The national movement for school discipline reform has been growing rapidly in recent years, and especially so in California. In just this past year, Oakland, Pasadena and San Francisco made sweeping changes to their rules for school police officers. Los Angeles and San Francisco banned the use of out-of-school suspensions for "willful defiance," paving the way this week for California to become the first state to do the same for K-3 students.
"Willful defiance" is a vague, catch-all category in many school discipline codes that includes minor misbehaviors like talking back to a teacher. It's a subjective disciplinary action and often results in students of color and students with disabilities getting harsher punishments for similar infractions. Because harsh discipline policies alienate students from the classroom and can cause them to fall behind in their coursework, there's a direct link between the number of suspensions a student gets and their likelihood of dropping out and becoming involved in the juvenile justice system.
Limiting the use of suspensions is a key step in ending the "school-to-prison pipeline" and, by keeping more kids in class, a crucial strategy in closing the achievement gap. Read more about California's new law here. And learn more about what other states are doing to curb harsh discipline practices with our state policy guide.