Oakland to Halt School Suspension for Willful Defiance


Mouthing off in class or failing to follow a teacher’s instructions will no longer lead to suspension in Oakland schools, a ban that will be phased in and be fully in effect just over a year from now, the school board unanimously decided Wednesday night.

Oakland Unified will become one of a handful of California school districts that restrict suspensions to more serious offenses and eliminate the punishment for willful defiance — a broad category of misbehavior that includes minor offenses such as refusing to take a hat off or ignoring teacher requests to stop texting and more severe incidents like swearing at a teacher or storming out of class. San Francisco and Los Angeles are also among those The state already bans suspension for willful defiance from kindergarten through third grade, and Oakland’s decision extends it through high school. The new policy, which goes into full effect July 1, 2016, also bans expulsions and the practice of involuntary transfers — moving students from one school to another — for willful defiance infractions.

Student Dan’enicole Williams, a McClymonds High School sophomore, said the ban will force educators and administrators to focus on why students are behaving a certain way rather than just suspending them.

“They never take time out, if someone is sleeping in class, to ask what’s wrong,” she said. “They may be acting that way because they didn’t eat the night before.”

As in other urban districts, African American students are disproportionately among those suspended, specifically for willful defiance in Oakland...