There is no true definition to the word “Willful Defiance”, however the term is loosely based on any kind of suggested insubordination and “misconduct” of a student. There is no true or standardized basis on the term, therefore making it an open slate for those who use willful defiance as a reason of suspension. According to, California schools suspend more students than graduates, more than 400,000 students are sent home due to misbehavior annually in California.

Willful defiance can range from a simple swear word uttered in class, to a transgender students refusal to following gender-appropriate dress regulation set by the administration.

Throughout the years, willful defiance has gone under controversy due to the disproportionate use of the subjective term used for punishment statewide aimed towards students of African-American and Latino origin. As of 2012-2013, Willful defiance accounts for less than 6 percent of expulsions statewide; however, it also accounts for 43 percent of all suspensions statewide as well.

A huge wave of change is on it’s way regarding Willful Defiance. After more than five months of negotiations, Governor Jerry Brown, with the help from advocates of less damaging disciplinary policies, has compromised on a new and revolutionary bill that would limit all California school’s power regarding willful defiance.

Under the newfound bill, students cannot be expelled for being willfully defiant or disruptive during school hours and events.

Last year, a similar bill regarding willful defiance was issued and passed by the assembly and senate. However, it was ultimately vetoed by the governor who believed that the decision to change willful defiance should be in the hands of local administrators.

In California, the move to alternative disciplinary policies and eliminating willful defiance as a reason for expelling or suspending students has been growing since I began covering it three years ago. The agreement Dickinson said he reached with Jerry Brown is a big step because the governor had been opposing changing state law and state law cannot be changed without his support.” Susan Frey, a writer at EdSource states. 

Throughout the years, a couple of districts such as Los Angeles Unified and San Francisco Unified have eliminated the category of willful defiance as a reason for suspension or expulsion. The trend of positive disciplinary conduct is spreading not only statewide, but nationwide. As momentum builds, the idea and term “willful defiance” will soon be eliminated both statewide and nationwide.

The bill, named Assembly Bill 420, is currently going under work, being rewritten to reflect amendments. It will be presented to the Senate in August. To read the bill, click here.