Willful Defiance Suspensions Vary Widely Among San Diego County Districts
Students can be suspended in California for 24 types of offenses. They include causing physical harm, bullying and theft. But 48 percent of the state’s suspensions during the 2011-12 school year were willful defiance or disruption.
The state Assembly has passed a bill that would limit the use of willful defiance suspension to middle and high school students and only after a third offense. That bill will now be considered by the Senate.
In San Diego County, 42 percent of students suspensions in the last school year were for willful defiance. But districts vary widely in how often they used the category. It was used to justify between 50 and 55 percent of suspensions in the Carlsbad, Oceanside, Vista Unified and Fallbrook Union High School Districts.
At the other end of the spectrum, Grossmont High School District did not use willful defiance suspensions at all last year and the Chula Vista Elementary School District used the category in only 8 percent of suspensions.
Supporters of the bill to curb these suspensions argue the category is too vague and is used as a catch all for disruptive students. They point to the fact that students suspended even once are more likely to drop out as a reason to look for other discipline methods. Opponents argue that school leaders should be able to decide what works best locally.