Law Office of Michelle Ball Discipline,Ed 48900s Willful Defiance And Disruption In Schools Is Not Expellable

Willful Defiance And Disruption In Schools Is Not Expellable


Last Updated on July 15, 2022 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 for causing disruption or defiance. No more. There is no longer an expulsion 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 expelled based on disruption or defiance in California

Disruption and Defiance Was Tagged Onto Other Expulsion Offenses

After the California legislature altered Education Code section 48900(k) to no longer allow expulsions 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 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 they did were “bad” hence they were defiant and disruptive– school logic. This was always the catch-all discipline wrong as almost all actions could fit under “disruption or defiance.”

So, for example, a student could be up for expulsion 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 real expulsion offense was. Schools wanted to increase their chances of success so threw anything in.

Expulsions for Disruption or Defiance Alone Were Unicorns

I cannot recall ever seeing a student up for expulsion for ONLY disruption or defiance, with no other charges, even prior to this legal change disallowing expulsion 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.  So, removing disruption or defiance from the legal bases for student expulsion probably changed almost nothing and did not decrease the number of student expulsions schools pursue.

So, yes, it is fantastic that no expulsions can proceed under section 48900(k) for student disruption or defiance, but no, I don’t think this really changed much.

Girl running away with straw hat on in grass
Suspensions for disruption or defiance can only occur if a student is in ninth through twelfth grades

Suspensions for Disruption or Defiance in High School

On the other hand, limiting student suspensions for disruption and defiance (another recent legal change) certainly did improve things. This did help students tremendously, as schools used to suspend constantly using disruption and defiance for tiny “offenses” including talking back, blurting out, arguing or leaving a seat during class.

Less Parent Irritation

In the past, parents facing expulsion would often complain strenuously about an expulsion charge for disruption and defiance, as the student did not disrupt or defy students by their actions. With this charge no longer being valid for expulsions, at least parents will have one less thing to be upset 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.