Currently, students in kindergarten through third grade cannot be suspended for “willful defiance.” That’s defined as disrupting activities, or defying the teacher or those in authority.

This new bill wants students all the way up to 12th grade included in that rule.

Marching on Sacramento, in favor of SB 607.

Carlo DeCicco is a parent. He’s also involved with the Alliance for Boys and Men of Color.

He agrees with the bill, saying suspensions are counterproductive.

“When they come back to class, then they, they’re even further behind,” DeCicco said. “And if you’re not engaged in the work, you’re going to be engaged in something differently.”

Senate Bill 607 hopes to stop suspensions, not for things like threats, violence or stealing, but students defying their teacher.

Longtime educators worry, taking away that form of discipline, isn’t smart.

“You have to have penalties for bad actors,” Former Fresno County Superintendent of Schools Larry Powell said. “But, you also have to have services for them, so you can change the bad act.

“But the legislator doesn’t want to pay for the intervention side, and so they want to eliminate the suspension side, but you can’t have it both ways.”

While state data shows defiance-only suspensions have dropped more than 70% the past 6 years, groups like the ACLU and others say, minority and disabled students are suspended at levels higher than their groups combined.

“When we look at the data, we see who it is used on,” Senator Nancy Skinner said. “It’s used on kids of color, it’s used on LGBTQ kids, it’s used on kids with disabilities.”

“Lets find them a different alternative, a different way to engage them during that time frame,” DeCicco said. 

But intervention programs, take money. 

Some educators worry, this new proposal could make it even harder to find teachers, in a state already in a shortage.

“If you’re not going to allow us to have the right to take someone who is defiant to authority out of the situation, so they don’t infect everyone else in class, nobody learns,” Powell said. “The teacher is disheartened and wants to get out of the profession.”

The original provision, which keeps kindergarteners through third graders from being suspended, expires in July.

SB 607 has at least three more votes before it could pass.

Reporting in Fresno, Megan Rupe.