With the criminalization of school discipline and the subsequent increased involvement between students and the juvenile justice system, a path from school to prison became entrenched. Public schools across the nation continued to increase their reliance on punitive disciplinary measures to punish a range of behaviors. Through these measures, schools began to perceive pushed out students as problematic, despite the lack of evidence supporting the efficacy of such policies. Due to school disciplinarians’ implicit bias when enforcing exclusionary policies, students of color and students with disabilities are most at risk. In the hopes of alleviating the devastating effects of the school-to- prison pipeline, California has taken a seemingly significant step towards reform in the form of California Assembly Bill 420. The bill aims to reduce the number of suspensions issued to students for willful defiance, however, it fails to sufficiently mitigate the impact of harsh disciplinary policies among those students who are most disproportionately impacted. In order to successfully enact meaningful education reform, the willful defiance standard in California Education Code section 48900(k) must either be eliminated as a behavior warranting disciplinary action or modified to clearly define the term, outline accountability measures, and allocate sufficient funding for training such that all students are afforded equal protection under the law. Absent substantial revisions to the California Education Code, the amended willful defiance standard not only fails to benefit all students, but may also violate California’s anti- discrimination statute.
Danielle Dankner, No Child Left Behind Bars: Suspending Willful Defiance to Disassemble the School-to-Prison Pipeline, 51 Loy. L.A. L. Rev. 577 (2018).