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Capitol News: Alternative Suspension Bill Moves out of Senate Education Committee

CTA continues to monitor the progress of a bill that would change some suspension policies in an effort to keep students in school, but also ensure the safety of students and educators in the classroom. AB 420 (Dickinson) focuses on the disproportionate suspension and expulsion of African American and Latino students as a result of the overuse of “willful defiance” that can be interpreted differently from educator to educator. CTA has a WATCH position on the bill that was approved by the Senate Education Committee and now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

What the bill does:

  • Prohibits student suspension from school for substantially disrupting school activities or substantially preventing instruction from occurring in grades K-5. Students in grades 6-12 can only be suspended from school on or after the third offense in a school year, and only if the pupil’s parent or guardian have been informed that other means of correction were attempted before the recommended suspension.
  • Prohibits student expulsion from school at all grade levels for substantially disrupting school activities or substantially preventing instruction from occurring.

One issue of great concern to educators is to ensure that a teacher continues to have the ability to control their classroom. CTA drafted the following amendment now in the bill: “A teacher may suspend a pupil in any grade level from class, including for a first offense and from a one-room schoolhouse, for disrupting school activities or otherwise willfully defying the valid authority of supervisors, teachers, administrators, school officials, or other school personnel engaged in the performance of their duties.”

AB 420 continues to allow (makes no changes to) student suspension and expulsion of students for a variety of other reasons, which include threats, violence, robbery, extortion, damaging school or private property, committing an obscene act, habitual profanity or vulgarity, harassment, threats, bullying, etc. Some alternatives to suspension and expulsion identified in the bill include a conference width parents and student, study teams, restorative justice programs, referrals to the school counselor, psychologist, social worker, etc.

CTA’s lobbyist testified that while educators believe in equity, and that suspension and expulsion should be a last resort, CTA remains concerned width tying the hands of school staff at any grade level. This bill and policy related to this bill was the subject of a lengthy debate on the floor of the June 2013 State Council of Education. Some educators were concerned that administrators have previously disregarded the current law that allows teachers to suspend from the classroom by immediately sending the student back to class, because there were no established alternative programs at the school site. Additionally, there are no funds in the bill for resources to implement training and/or alternative suspension programs, but school districts and local bargaining teams could use the flexibility in the local control funding formula to establish district programs. CTA is working width the sponsors of the bill and the author on these and other areas of concern.

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