By Devin Fehely

SAN JOSE (KPIX) – Starting in 2020, principals and administrators will be banned from suspending students for “willful defiance” of teachers, staff, and administrators.

Senate Bill 419 bans schools from suspending students in grades 4-8 for disrupting school activities or willfully defying school authorities, including teachers and staff.

It was authored by state Sen. Nancy Skinner, a Democrat from Berkeley.

“We would rather have them learn from their mistakes, stay on campus, continue their education rather than just sending them home,” said Dane Caldwell-Holden, Director of Student Services for the San Jose Unified School District.

Governor Newsom signed the bill into law Monday. It will go into effect July 1, 2020.

Existing law already prohibits schools from suspending children in grades K-3 for disrupting or willful defiance.

Critics of the new law worry that teachers’ efforts to discipline students and control their classrooms are being undercut.

“When you’re that young, you’re easily influenced. So, whatever you can get away with you will. You’re basically laying the foundation for future behavior,” said Lubav Westergren an opponent of SB 419.

Caldwell-Holden says school systems statewide will have to shift their focus to better understanding the student’s behavior and finding appropriate discipline short of suspension.

“We’re quite capable of issuing consequences when students misbehave while leaving them on campus. We can give them detention. We can have them clean up trash. We can have them reflect on what they’ve done,” he said.

Supporters say there’s no guarantee students will return to the classroom after their suspension ready to learn.

“Mothers aren’t home. Fathers aren’t home. Grandparents aren’t home. Nobody’s home literally and figuratively. So, what does that mean to suspend somebody?,” said parent Tessie Woodmansee.

in the 2016-17 academic, California students missed more than 150,000 days of school because of suspensions for unruly behavior, according to a state Senate analysis.

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