Bill banning suspensions for young kids heads to Christie

Diane D'Amico, Press of Atlantic City 

A bill that would prohibit public schools from expelling students through second grade has passed the state Senate and Assembly and now goes to the governor for final approval.

“Suspensions and expulsions of young students for minor misbehavior is not only a misguided concept, it raises serious concerns about bias” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Bergen, a sponsor of the bill. Research has indicated that suspensions can lead to poor school performance and that minority students are suspended at a higher rate.

The bill requires school districts and charter schools to implement an early detection and prevention program to identify students who are experiencing behavioral or disciplinary problems and provide behavioral supports.

The bill was approved 56-16-5 by the Assembly and 36-0 by the Senate. It was largely supported by education advocates, though some said the bill was not needed because schools do not typically suspend young children.

A kindergarten student in Atlantic City was removed from school this year after his teacher found him with a boxcutter in class, which he said he had found under some papers there. His mother filed a complaint against the district saying he was out of school for more than a month with no provisions for home instruction as required by law. She said she had voluntarily removed him from school rather than having him officially suspended for 45 days, which is what the district said would happen.