Pending bill would restrict suspensions of early learners

Pending bill would restrict suspensions of early learners

(Calif.) Last week, charter school officials in Modesto faced the difficult question of how to discipline a 5-year-old for pretending to have a bomb in his backpack. Legislation pending before the governor would prohibit schools in the state preschool program from expelling an early learner for behavior issues except under specific circumstances.

AB 752 by Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio, D-West Covina, is one on scores of major education bills awaiting the signature or perhaps a veto of Gov. Jerry Brown in the coming weeks.

Approved without dissent in both houses of the Legislature, Rubio’s bill would require school officials to document that they have taken “reasonable” steps to keep a child in the classroom before taking disciplinary action. A child’s parents or legal guardian would have to be consulted first and given the opportunity to seek support from other government agencies.

According to analysis of the bill, 6 percent of school districts participating in the preschool program reported placing at least one child in out-of-school suspensions last year. The U.S. Department of Education has said that not only do suspensions and expulsions of early learners hold the potential to negatively impact social-emotional and behavioral development, but they also pull children out of the very settings that could benefit them the most: early learning environments.

Federal officials also said that families are too often left to sort out the complexities surrounding the causes of a child’s behavior on their own.

“In many cases, families of children who are expelled do not receive assistance in identifying an alternative placement, leaving the burden of finding another program entirely to the family,” federal officials said. “There may be challenges accessing another program, particularly an affordable high-quality program. Even in cases where assistance is offered, often there is a lapse in service which leaves families, especially working families, in difficult situations.”

Other bills on interest pending before the governor:

  • SB 250: requires school officials to protect students from public humiliation if parents fall behind on paying meal fees.
  • AB 746: imposes new mandates on schools built before 2010 to test for lead in potable water systems and to notify parents if positive results are found.
  • AB 10: requires Title I schools serving students between 6th and 12 grade to stock at least 50 percent of a campus’ restrooms with feminine hygiene products.
  • AB 1227: includes sexual abuse and human trafficking to the topics of instruction as part of the comprehensive sexual health curriculum, It also allows parents the right to have their child excused from that content.
  • AB 1264: calls on districts to ensure that parents or guardians of a student with a disability are offered copies of relevant school records at least five days before any meeting regarding the child.