By: Krystle Crossman
Suspensions and expulsions for elementary students seem to be out of control in public schools. Children are getting in trouble for “willful defiance” which is a broad category that can include talking back to a teacher, telling the teacher “no”, all the way to throwing something across the room in a fit of anger. But instead of dealing with the behavior and making the parents aware so that they can deal with it as well schools are more content to suspend the children or even expel them. This is happening in grades as low as kindergarten! Imagine being a 6 year old in kindergarten and being told that you can never come back to the school where you have begun to build friendships all because of one temper tantrum. This is a huge problem today and it is affecting black students more than any other race.
California is trying to get this problem under control. They are now the first state to ban the use of “willful defiance” suspensions and expulsions. On Saturday, Jerry Brown who is the Governor of California, signed the law AB 420 into effect. The law bans expulsions and suspensions for “willful defiance” for kindergarten students through third grade students. The ACLU states that out of all of the suspensions in the state, this reasoning made up 43%. Just in grades K-3 there have been 10,000 suspensions per year just for “willful defiance” which can include many different minor offenses. Of those students 19% were black students.
Banning these suspensions and expulsions is also a way to try and reduce the impact of the “school-to-prison pipeline” effect on minority students. When they are given severe punishments at such a young age it can lead them down a troubled path for life. They believe that they are bad kids from the start and continue to cause trouble because they feel they have already been typecast by everyone. This leads them down a road to even more suspensions or expulsions and eventually can land them in jail. The school-to-prison pipeline issue has been at the forefront of the media lately but California is the first state that has taken an actual step to try and do something about it.