Law Office of Michelle Ball 48900,expulsion,suspension Does It Really Matter If Students Can’t Be Expelled Or Suspended For Willful Defiance Or Disruption?

Does It Really Matter If Students Can’t Be Expelled Or Suspended For Willful Defiance Or Disruption?


Last Updated on March 17, 2021 by Michelle Ball

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995
Recently, the suspension and expulsion codes of California were altered to take “willfully defied” and “disrupted” out of the mix as bases for expulsion (any grade) and for suspension through third grade.  Per the pre-2015 codes, these could be suspendable or expellable offenses.  Does this change really matter?
Since starting as an attorney in the education law field, I have addressed many school expulsions.  Almost all expulsions I have seen have included California Education Code §48900(k) [disruption/defiance] which I call the “catch-all” section. This section has “applied” (per school authorities only) to personnel having to call a kid out of class and talk to the child on a situation they caused, watching a fight, or any “waste” of school staff time.  Although frequently used, and very upsetting to parents looking at this section on an expulsion form, I have rarely seen this section used solely and by itself to expel a student.  Generally, this is a secondary basis for expulsion which accompanies another big offense such as fighting, drugs, alcohol, harassment, bullying or otherwise.  This section does not usually stand on its own for expulsion.  So, removing this code as a basis for expulsion changes almost nothing.
However, for suspension, as this section no longer can be used to suspend students in third grade or lower, the change could be much more meaningful.  This removal will affect the students who may have issues in the classroom with leaving their seats, with blurting out, with arguing briefly, with getting used to authority figures bossing them around.  I have seen kindergartners suspended multiple times with section 48900(k) as a basis.  Multiple suspensions for defiance/disruption of young children is very difficult for them and their parents to process.  And, shouldn’t the school know how to handle young kids other than kicking them out of school? This will help many parents of young students who would have been suspended before and now will have to be handled in a nicer way.  
So, even if it may not cut into the expulsion traffic much at school, this change will force schools to try other solutions, such as finding out what the child did not understand that made them bored or disinterested, solving the problem causing them to vacate their seat, giving them a “helper” job so they can move around the class more, providing reward programs, and otherwise– all of which are usually better than kicking them home to watch TV and to feel like they are “bad.”  
The Education Code moves and changes yearly, and sometimes small subtle changes occur.  This is one of those times.  When applied, these changes will help the youngest students who may be just learning how to “make it” in the classroom, so they can be ready for the higher grades and will be able to stick it out when things really get tough!