Learn about AB 420: Limiting the Use of Willful Defiance - Women's Foundation California
AB420 — Willful Defiance

Healthy Youth Development Team
Mentor: Alice Kessler
Author: Assemblymember Dickenson, D- 7th District

It’s simple: The greater the number of children that stay in school and graduate, the better the outcomes for California. For example, young people who go to college earn more money in their lifetime than those who don’t. They also provide increased tax revenue as well as reduced costs for social welfare programs and incarceration.

And yet, according to the California Department of Education, California suspends more students each year than it sends to college.

Why such high suspension rates? New national data analyzed by UCLA shows that 48 percent of suspensions in California were attributed to the so-called willful defiance of authority.

Willful defiance is widely criticized as an arbitrary catch-all for any behavior a teacher finds objectionable, such as repeatedly tapping one’s foot on the floor, refusing to remove a hat or failing to wear the school uniform.

Suspensions for willful defiance start as early as kindergarten. Research shows that even one suspension doubles a student’s likelihood of dropping out and triples her chance of becoming involved in the juvenile justice system. At the same time, children who drop out cost the state $46 billion dollars a year, including $12 billion in crime costs alone.

AB 420 (Dickenson) seeks to reduce the number of elementary school students who are suspended and expelled, particularly for relatively minor behavioral problems that do not threaten school safety. In high schools, the bill limits a superintendent or a principal’s authority to suspend or expel a pupil from school for disrupting school activities or otherwise willfully defying authority. Specifically, this bill:

  1. Prohibits a pupil in grades K-5 from being suspended or expelled from school for willful defiance.
  2. Specifies that a pupil in grades 6-12 may only be suspended from school for willful defiance after the third offense in a school year and provided that other means of correction as defined under current law were attempted before the recommendation to suspend.
  3. Prohibits a pupil in grades 6-12 from being recommended for expulsion for willful defiance.

Keeping kids in school is a low-cost investment with high returns. It has a real and measurable impact on the wealth, health and safety of our communities.

This work is powered by you.

The feminist future we are building together in California is going to be built by all of us sharing our time, our money, and our skills.  Please consider contributing today.

Together We Are Unstoppable.

Sign up here to join our mailing list and receive updates about our programs, partnerships, and more!