Blog | October 21, 2021

Fight Crime: Invest in Kids 25th Anniversary - Passage of AB 420

The 2014 passage of AB 420 (Dickinson) banned the excessive use of suspensions and expulsions for young students

Fight Crime: Invest in Kids played a major role in the 2014 passage of AB 420 (Dickinson), which effectively banned the excessive use of suspensions for minor misbehavior (known as disruption or defiance) by K-3 students and banned expulsions on these grounds for all grade levels. Prior to the bill’s implementation, students were being suspended and removed from a learning environment for reasons such as failing to turn in homework, not bringing the right items to class, or failing to take off a hat.

Pie chart of suspension and expulsion rates

Fight Crime: Invest in Kids laid the groundwork for school discipline reform with the release of their report “Classmates Not Cellmates” in 2012, which made the case for why effective school discipline cuts crime and improves student success. The following year, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, along with other stakeholders, consulted directly with Assemblymember Dickinson and staff on the language and research for the bill, finding that suspended or expelled students were more likely to drop out of school, and suspended or expelled students were also three times more likely to be involved with the juvenile justice system.

This bill also had civil rights implications, as African-American students in California were more than four times as likely to be suspended as white students for disruption/defiance offenses. Fight Crime: Invest in Kids led a media campaign to draw attention to the issue with an op-ed by then Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson, as well as having another member, then San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, meet directly with then California Governor Jerry Brown.

Chart of expulsion and suspension rates based on school location

The implementation of AB 420 prevented tens of thousands of suspensions of K-3 students and helped lead to a 62 percent reduction in all elementary school suspensions in following years. Third grade test scores also steadily increased since the K-3 ban took effect, illustrating that the ban helped improve learning conditions. Building on AB 420, the governor and legislature enacted a K-8 ban on disruption/defiance suspensions in 2019.


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