OPINION: Benefits of the Bill that Bans California suspensions in Public Schools

By Adam Robles

Last Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 419, which prevents the schools of California from suspending elementary and middle school students for “willful defiance.” This is hugely important for students with disabilities and troubled youth.

It’s a sign of relief for students who are unable to control their outbursts due to having disabilities like Tourette’s syndrome. This will allow years of practice for these cases where students need time to get it under control.

Simply suspending students would be a short, but ineffective long-term solution to the issue of disruptive behavior in classrooms. There are often deeper issues that coincide with a student’s drive to talk back to a teacher.

In the article “When the teacher is the bully” from greatschools.org, it says,“When it comes to protecting kids from bully teachers, sadly kids are in a vulnerable position — and ill-equipped to fight the battle on their own.” 

The reason behind a student acting out in class could be a cry for help. Since most students aren’t informed on how to defend themselves against being bullied by their teacher, they may act out in class or purposely develop a new pattern of disruptive behaviors in hopes that someone of higher power could pick up on that.

In a classroom where a whole room full of students is isolated to having a single person in charge who claims to know best, there can be conflict or tension that brews up. Teachers are often very dead set on the ideas or beliefs that they hold to be true and are unwilling to consider otherwise.

When you mix this with an adolescence child or someone who puts those beliefs into question constantly, that’s very frequently a formula for disaster. People adopt this fight or flight response to having their beliefs questioned because most people are extremely uncomfortable with being surrounded by ideas that come into direct conflict with their own. It begins to make them feel like they’ve been believing lies their whole lives.

Teachers will often single out students that they personally don’t like. It’s not right, but that’s where the human side meets the side that’s supposed to be professional.

In the article “California to extend ban on pushing students out of school for disruptive behavior” from EdSource, it was stated that “beginning next July, teachers in California will no longer be allowed to suspend elementary and middle school students from school for disrupting classroom activities or defying school authorities, as the result of a law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday.”

This is great news because it means that a student’s education is no longer in the hands of a single teacher. If they are thrown out of the class for whatever reason, they’d still be in school and could still learn instead of being sent home which would discourage them from wanting to learn in school.

A law like this could definitely be abused in the case where a student knows they might not be penalised as harsh as they would’ve before, but that’s where the case by case analysis must come into play. 

Senator Nancy skinner, D-Berkeley, commented on the law as being positive. “Ending willful defiance suspensions will keep kids in school where they belong and where teachers and counselors can help them thrive,” Skinner said. It’s meant to be used as a tool to help students and to try to find a real solution.

Counselors should really talk to their students more and understand why they are acting the way they act instead of taking the easy way out and suspending them for a couple of days. They most likely earned a degree to work with kids and they specialize in working with kids, so this may be one of the key uses where a counselor can come into play more effectively than the parents. That’s also true because parents tend to believe that their child is pure and would never act the way they do at school.

To some kids, a suspension could mean vacation. If their parents don’t care or aren’t there to discipline them, then why would the child want to repeat those same actions to possibly take an even longer vacation next time?

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