Law Office of Michelle Ball Discipline,Ed 48900s Suspension For Defiance Or Disruption Is No More

Suspension For Defiance Or Disruption Is No More


Last Updated on February 8, 2024 by Michelle Ball

By Michelle Ball, Sacramento California Expulsion, Special Education, sports/CIF, College, Education and School Attorney/Lawyer for Students since 1995

A few years ago, students could be expelled or suspended for causing a disruption or defiance. Expulsions still exist, but suspensions for this offense are no more as of July 2024. No longer are suspensions allowed in California public schools for a student who is disruptive or defiant!

Tween crouching, black and white picture, hoodie on head
Students cannot be suspended based on disruption or defiance in California

Disruption and Defiance Charges Were Commonly Used To Suspend

After the California legislature altered Education Code section 48900(k) to no longer allow suspensions for disruption and defiance from kindergarten through twelfth grades, the world cheered. Yet, did this really matter? Maybe but maybe not.

For decades prior to this change, most suspensions and many expulsions, no matter what the offense, also included a charge of breaching California Education Code §48900(k) (disruption/defiance) as a student was alleged to have been disruptive or defiant in their actions.

Any actions students did were “bad” hence they were defiant and disruptive– “school logic.” Disruption was always the catch-all discipline offense as almost all actions could fit under “disruption or defiance.”

So, for example, a student could be suspended for fighting (Education Code 48900(a)) and maybe bullying (Education Code 48900(r)), or perhaps for possession of drugs (Education Code 48900(c)) but no matter what, a disruption and defiance charge was always added on, regardless of what the offense. Schools wanted to increase their chances of success so threw anything in.

Suspensions for Disruption or Defiance No Longer Authorized

In 2023, California finally stopped school suspensions for disruption or defiance for all grades.

Limiting student suspensions for disruption and defiance improves things a lot.

Students, however, can still be suspended by a teacher from their class if they disrupt or defy in the classroom. They can also be referred to the school office for an alternative form of correction, other than suspension.

This limitation on disruption suspensions has expanded slowly over time from the elementary level, then to the middle school level and in July 2024, through the high school level. The change has helped students tremendously.

Schools used to suspend constantly using disruption and defiance for tiny “offenses” including talking back, blurting out, arguing or leaving a seat during class.

Girl running away with straw hat on in grass
Suspensions for disruption or defiance are no more

Expulsions for Disruption or Defiance Alone Are Unicorns But Suspension Change Is Significant

I cannot recall ever seeing a student up for expulsion for ONLY disruption or defiance, with no other charges, so it may not matter that a student can still technically be expelled for disruption or defiance.

In other words, although frequently used in expulsions as an added charge (and often very upsetting to parents), I have rarely seen disruption and defiance used alone to expel a student.  

However, disruption and defiance, were continuously used to suspend students. So the California legislature’s changes make a big difference for many students. Now a student who talks back won’t just be kicked out of school as they were defiant. And, a student who makes a very loud noise or turns on a blaring musical song during class cannot be suspended for their disruption.

This is a fantastic change.

Less Parent Irritation

In the past, parents facing suspension would often complain strenuously about an allegation of disruption and defiance, as many students did not actually disrupt or defy anyone.

With this charge no longer being valid for school suspensions, at least parents will have one less thing to worry about.

Student expulsion and suspension attorney Michelle Ball has helped students since the mid-1990s. As a lawyer focusing only on students, she can focus on how best to serve students throughout California, in all towns, including Woodland, Roseville, Foresthill, Sausalito, Santa Cruz, San Anselmo and many other locations.