New Legislation Impacts California School Suspensions, Lunch Shaming, and Start Times

New Ban on Suspending Students for Willful Defiance

California recently enacted SB 419, which amends Education Code section 48900, and now permanently prohibits public and charter schools from suspending fourth and fifth grade students for “willful defiance” and prohibits such suspensions for sixth through eighth grade students for five years, until July 1, 2025.

“Willful defiance” is defined as when a student has “Disrupted school activities or otherwise willfully defied the valid authority of supervisors, teachers, administrators, school officials, or other school personnel engaged in the performance of their duties.”

Existing law already prohibits schools from suspending or recommending expulsion for kindergarten through third grade students for willful defiance.

Kindergarten through twelfth grade students also cannot be recommended for expulsion for willful defiance.

The new law goes into effect July 1, 2020.

 

Ban on School Lunch Shaming

Newly enacted SB 265 now guarantees all students will receive meals of their choice even if they have unpaid meal fees. Students cannot be “shamed, treated differently, or served a meal that differs from what a pupil whose parent or guardian does not have unpaid school meal fees would receive under that local educational agency’s policy.”

SB 265 amends Education Code section 49557.5 to “ensure that a pupil whose parent or guardian has unpaid school meal fees is not denied a reimbursable meal of the pupil’s choice because of the fact that the pupil’s parent or guardian has unpaid meal fees and shall ensure that the pupil is not shamed or treated differently from other pupils.”

Covered public and charter schools also cannot attempt to collect any unpaid school meal fees from a student; they may only attempt to collect unpaid school meal fees from a parent or guardian.

This legislation applies to public and charter schools that are required to serve a free or reduced-price meal during the school day, and takes effect immediately.

 

Later School Start Times Required for Middle Schools and High Schools

SB 328, recently signed by the Governor, adds section 46148 to the Education Code and requires “The schoolday for high schools, including high schools operated as charter schools, shall begin no earlier than 8:30 a.m.,” and “The schoolday for middle schools, including middle schools operated as charter schools, shall begin no earlier than 8:00 a.m.” These start times do not apply to elective classes that begin earlier in the day, such as “zero period” classes.

The new school start times are to be implemented for middle schools and high schools no later than July 1, 2022, or the date on which a school district’s or charter school’s respective collective bargaining agreement that is operative on January 1, 2020, expires, whichever is later. Thus, districts that have recently negotiated agreements or are in the process of negotiating new agreements have the option of adjusting to the later times when their contracts end.

However, “rural” schools are excepted from the new start times due to the logistical challenges and higher-than-average transportation costs for those districts. While section 46148 does not define “rural,” the U.S. Department of Education defines three different classifications for rural schools:

– Fringe: Census-defined rural territory that is less than or equal to 5 miles from an urbanized area, as well as rural territory that is less than or equal to 2.5 miles from an urban cluster.

– Distant: Census-defined rural territory that is more than 5 miles but less than or equal to 25 miles from an urbanized area, as well as rural territory that is more than 2.5 miles but less than or equal to 10 miles from an urban cluster.

– Remote: Census-defined rural territory that is more than 25 miles from an urbanized area and is also more than 10 miles from an urban cluster

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