Summary: A high quality, nurturing environment in the early school years unlocks the potential of all of our children to learn about themselves and the world. Currently, too few children are on track for success by the end of third grade. There are many reasons for this, but one is that exclusionary school discipline based on infractions often unrelated to safety push thousands of children out of the building at a time when school can have the greatest impact. This bill would update statute to offer better guidance to administrators regarding out-of-school suspensions & expulsions for very young children. For children in publicly-funded preschool classrooms (typically 3- & 4-year olds) and children in grades Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd, the bill ensures that out-of-school suspensions for young children address ongoing safety concerns and are developmentally appropriate. The bill does not affect statute governing in-school suspensions or classroom removals. The bill also reinforces the partnership between parents and schools in determining if a child has an unidentified disability when safety or behavioral issues arise and clarifies that eligibility regarding prevention, early intervention, and support services for expelled and at-risk students includes the early elementary grades.
Position: The Children’s Campaign strongly supports this bill. School success by end of third grade is a powerful predictor of later academic and life outcomes, including graduation. Currently, too few children, especially Black, Latino, Native American, and children with disabilities, are on track for success by the end of third grade. There are many reasons for this, but one is that exclusionary school discipline based on infractions often unrelated to safety push thousands of children, disproportionately boys, Black children, Latino boys, and children with disabilities, out of the building at a time when school can have the greatest impact. We know that investments in early development pay huge dividends in preventing and closing opportunity gaps. Yet research shows that practices like out-of-school suspension and expulsion are currently widening the education equity gap. In the early years of rapid brain development, we need thoughtful discipline policies that help children unlock their potential. Unfortunately, in current law the same categories for exclusionary discipline that exist for an 18-year-old also exist for a 5-year-old. By focusing on alternatives to suspension and expulsion for non-threatening behavior for very young children, we have an opportunity to address the root causes of a child’s actions. This is a missed opportunity when a young child is sent out of the school building.
Current Status: Introduced in the House and assigned to the House Education Committee, where it is scheduled to be heard on Monday, March 13 at 1:30 p.m. in Room 0112