Next school year, it will be illegal for both public and charter schools in California to suspend disruptive students, from kindergarten to 8th grade. In a sweeping act of government overreach, the California state legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom have decided that they know better than teachers and school administrators.
The new bill permanently prohibits suspensions for “willful defiance,” which sponsoring Democratic Sen. Nancy Skinner, says “puts the needs of kids first.” This statement, though deeply ironic, is not incorrect. The bill does put kids — especially the defiant variety — first. The problem is that it privileges them above the adults tasked with their education and their obedient classmates.
“California’s union-controlled legislature and governor just told students across the state there are no consequences for unruly behavior and have handed control of the classroom over to the most disruptive students. Teachers who simply want to teach and students who truly want to learn are held hostage by their new overlords — willfully defiant kids,” public school teacher of 28 years and founder of For Kids & Country Rebecca Friedrichs said of the law.
As part of the new bill, superintendents or principals must provide alternatives to suspension or expulsion that are “age-appropriate and designed to address and correct the pupil’s specific misbehavior.” Yet, Friedrichs and other teachers fear that the replacement of clear consequences with nebulous and complicated behavioral interventions could make schools more dangerous.
“Every teacher I know personally is against [these policies] because they are dangerous and have completely undermined our authority and ability to conduct learning in a safe environment,” Friedrichs said in an interview with theWashington Examiner.
Also at issue is California’s regulation of charter schools through this bill. Publicly-funded and privately managed, charter schools were meant to be exempt from burdensome state regulations and bureaucracy.
Since these schools are free to create their own disciplinary policies, the new law effectively overwrites the language of 1,300 charter petitions. This would cause significant disruption at the local level, according to the Charter School Development Center.
There is a clear mismatch between the priorities of the politicians pushing this bill and those whose lives it will affect daily.
“The California Teachers’ Association has a super majority in the California State Legislature and technically runs our state. I think we should ask the CTA why their governor and their legislature shoved this bill through. Teachers, parents, and all taxpayers deserve answers,” Friedrichs concluded.
The law will go into effect July 1, 2020. That gives California a little less than a year to realize its mistake.
Kate Hardiman is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. She taught high school in Chicago for two years while earning her M.Ed. and is now a J.D. candidate at Georgetown University Law Center.