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Youth and mental health advocates call for health interventions before students receive suspensions and expulsions for illegal substance abuse

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO—Youth and mental health advocates gathered today to urge support of a bill, AB 2711, to require interventions before suspensions or expulsions if students possess or use illegal substances on campus. Assemblymember James C. Ramos (D-San Bernardino) introduced the bill that was scheduled for a hearing later in the day in the Assembly Education Committee.

Ramos said, “When we suspend or expel students without trying to get them the help they need, we’re failing them. Early interventions can be life changing and life-saving. Early interventions with counselors who can connect youth to treatment services for alcohol, drugs or mental health services could change the future for those young persons saving  them from potential incarceration or worse.”

Currently, suspensions and expulsions at a school are permitted for substance abuse related violations at the discretion of campus and district administrators. AB 2711 would still allow the expulsion or suspension of students but not as a first action in dealing with the violation. The measure would take effect July 1, 2026.

The lawmaker cited California Department of Education data to underscore the troubling numbers of students abusing illegal substances and the uneven application of the punishment:

  • 13 percent of 7th graders used alcohol to get drunk – that increases to 52 percent by grade 11.
  • 44 percent of 11th graders used cold or cough medicine and,
  • 22 percent used prescription pain medications to get high four or more times in their lives.

Ramos also observed that:

  • More than 59 percent of drug-related suspensions are of boys,
  • More than 83 percent are of socioeconomically disadvantaged students, and
  • 83 percent are of youth of color.

Bill sponsors are the California Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, California Alliance of Child and Family Services, California Youth Empowerment Network and Children Now.

Lishaun Francis, Children Now Senior Director, Behavioral Health said, "Decriminalizing mental health challenges and youth addiction starts in schools. Children Now is proud to co-sponsor AB 2711, which brings us a step closer to disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline by bolstering the support our young people receive when they are struggling."

Danny Thirakul, Public Policy Coordinator with the California Youth Empowerment Network said, “The California Youth Empowerment Network (CAYEN) is proud to cosponsor AB 2711 (Ramos). Our youth have spoken loud and clear on the issue. They want supports and services, not suspensions. We must empower our youth with the tools necessary to address their substance use challenges without penalizing them for it. Where suspensions isolate our youth without addressing the underlying issues of substance use, resulting in lifelong negative impacts, services and supports are a vital tool in promoting long term health and wellness.”

California Alliance of Child and Family Services Vice President, Public Policy and Strategy Adrienne Shilton stated, “Assembly Bill 2711 is a beacon of hope for our most vulnerable students, offering a lifeline where there was once a cycle of punishment and despair. By requiring a supportive framework, AB 2711 shifts the narrative from punitive measures to compassionate support for youth grappling with substance use. The reality is that current policies disproportionately affect boys, socioeconomically disadvantaged students, and youth of color, denying them valuable instructional time and perpetuating systemic inequities. AB 2711 is a promise to these students—a promise of engagement, support, and access to the resources they need to overcome challenges and succeed. With more support and resources, we can address substance use and nurture a path to academic achievement, graduation, and a brighter future for all.”

A partial list of supporters include Alliance for Children’s Rights, California Coalition for Youth, California Association of Alcohol and Drug Program Executives, California Consortium for Urban Indian Health, County Health Executives Association of California, Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, Steinberg Institute, Oakland Unified School District, Psychiatric Physicians Alliance of California, ACLU California Action and the Youth Leadership Institute.


Assemblymember James C. Ramos proudly represents the 45th Assembly district that includes the Cities of Fontana, Highland, Mentone, Redlands, Rialto and San Bernardino. He is the first and only California Native American serving in the state’s legislature. Ramos chairs the Assembly Budget Subcommittee #6 on Public Safety.