State eliminates all day, extended suspensions over willful defiance

Students will no longer be suspended for the entire day or for multiple days but may be asked to leave class for the period if they are disruptive

Darren Fraser
Published October 25, 2023  • 
3:00 pm

SACRAMENTO – The State Legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom has decided to leave defiant students in school, changing teachers and administrators disciplinary rules that would have otherwise sent students home.  

On Oct. 8, Gov. Newsom signed SB 274 that bans schools from suspending for the entire day or for multiple days grades 6-12 students in public and charter schools who engage in acts of willful defiance against teachers, administrators and school officials. Teachers can still suspend a pupil in any grade from a single class if the student disrupts school activities or commits an act from an extensive list of prohibited behaviors – including willful defiance.

SB 274 also prohibits students from being suspended or expelled based solely on tardiness or truancy.

Senator Nancy Skinner, (D-Oakland), wrote the legislation. The bill builds upon prior laws that eliminated willful defiance as a reason to suspend or expel students.

“This means a student who, for example, is kicked out of a math class only misses that period and is not suspended from school for that day,” said Robert Gammon, press secretary and policy advisor for Skinner.


The California School Board Association (CSBA) supports the bill. According to a CSBA study referenced in SB 274’s text, Black students are suspended at a far higher rate than their peers. The bill also references a 2018 study by UCLA and San Diego that found willful defiance represented 15% of all suspensions for Black students in grades 4 through 12 and 21% of suspensions for Black students in grades 7 and 8.

According to the bill, homeless students, students with disabilities, students living in foster homes and LGBTQ students are more likely to be suspended for behavior deemed willfully defiant.

United States Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, speaking to Education Week, said, “All students deserve access to safe, supportive schools and classrooms. Discrimination and use of exclusionary discipline can negatively impact students’ abilities to learn, grow and thrive.”

Suspended or expelled students are at significantly greater risk for dropping out of school. Which means they are at greater risk for falling into the “school-to-prison pipeline,” which costs the state an estimated $46 billion per year.


The aim of SB 274 is to reduce long-term suspensions, to make teachers and school personnel sympathetic to the fact that immaturity and impetuosity, which many young people are prone to displaying, while disruptive, need not be classified as willfully defiant behaviors, and to redirect students to less Draconian punitive measures, such as in-school interventions. According to the bill, there are age-appropriate strategies that are designed to improve behavioral and academic outcomes.

SB 274 does amend Section 48900 of the Education Code to reduce the number of infractions for which a student may be suspended or expelled, but it also retains the extensive existing list of punishable offenses, including:

  • Causing or attempting to cause physical injury to another person;
  • Possessing a firearm or a fake firearm, knife, explosive or other dangerous object;
  • Selling, possessing or being under the influence of a controlled substance;
  • Damaging school property;
  • Stealing school property;
  • Disrupting school activities;
  • Committing or attempting to commit sexual assault;
  • Bullying, including cyber sexual bullying; and
  • Threatening or intimidating a student who has complained against bullying.

SB 274 clarifies that students may only be suspended or expelled for committing prohibited acts while on school grounds, during a school-sponsored activity, or while going to or coming from school or a school-sponsored activity.

Darren Fraser