Legislation would help stop school suspensions for younger students

Legislation heard in the E-12 Education Finance and Policy Committee this week would prohibit dismissal of a student in kindergarten through grade three.

A young student could be suspended only if all no exclusionary discipline measures had been exhausted and they were an ongoing, serious safety threat to themself or others. Dismissal is defined to include exclusion, expulsion, and suspension. The dismissal definition does not include removal from class.

Studies have shown that students of color are expelled at higher rates than their white counterparts and are disproportionately affected by this sort of discipline. The Department of Human Rights found students of color were twice as likely to be suspended or expelled when compared to their white peers. Some Minnesota school districts suspend more elementary school children than middle or high school students.

The bill was amended to require school districts to annually review their disciplinary policies and convene a stakeholder group for the review. The policy must also include a process for a parent, guardian, or student age 18 or older to request​ a review of an imposed student suspension. The bill was supported by various groups and parents whose children had been subject to school suspensions in the past. (SF1048)