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Early Childhood & Discipline

School-to-prison pipeline issues impacting students from pre-k to elementary school and efforts to reduce the use of exclusionary discipline on these students 

 

Key Facts and Data Trends

Major Reports​​

 

Campaigns for Change

Legislation

  • Colorado Law, HB19-1194, Limits out-of-school suspension for students in grades 2 and below. Effective July 2020. This law prohibits the suspension or expulsion of prekindergarten, kindergarten, first and second graders from public schools (including charters and community preschools) for not more than 3 days with exceptions for certain violent or drug-related offenses or offenses that endanger the health and safety of others. This law also requires the state board to annually review suspension and expulsion data.

  • Virginia Law, SB 170, limits removal from school for students through the third grade. Effective June 3, 2018, the bill prohibits suspensions and expulsions for pre-K through third grade students for more than three school days, and prohibits expulsions except for drug and firearm offenses.

  • California Law limits the offenses that can result in suspensions or expulsions for students, especially kindergarten through third graders. September 2014. The law asserts that students from kindergarten to third grade cannot be suspended for “disruption" or “willful defiance.” No student, regardless of their grade-level, can be expelled for "disruption" or "willful defiance." 

  • Texas Law Limits Out-of-School Suspension for Students in Grade 2 and Below. June 2017. The law prohibits out-of-school suspensions for students through second grade, with exceptions for conduct regarding the possession of weapons, certain violent behavior, and drugs and alcohol. See article regarding implementation.

  • New Jersey Law limits expulsions and suspensions for students in preschool through grade 2. September 2016. The law (S-2081/A-3790): prohibits the expulsion of students in grades K thru 2 (except for violations of the “Zero Tolerance for Guns Act); prohibits out-of-school suspensions for students in grades K through 2 (except for conduct that is of a violent or sexual nature that endangers others); prohibits all suspensions for preschool students, and provides that preschool students may not be expelled (except for violations of the “Zero Tolerance for Guns Act”). School districts and charter schools must implement an early detection and prevention program to identify students in preschool through grade 2 experiencing behavioral problems.

  • Connecticut Public Act, No. 15-96, limits out-of-school suspensions and expulsions for students in preschool and grades kindergarten to two, June 22, 2015. Effective July 1, 2015, out-of-school suspensions and expulsions of children in preschool and grades kindergarten to two were prohibited unless there has been a determination at a hearing that the student’s conduct was of a violent or sexual nature that endangers others.

  • Oregon law, SB 553, limits out-of-school suspensions and expulsions for students in fifth grade or lower to three circumstances. Effective July 1, 2015. Exclusionary discipline is limited to non-accidental conduct causing serious physical harm to a student or school employee, if student conduct poses a direct threat to health and/or safety of students or school employees, or when the suspension or expulsion is required by law. If a student receives an out-of-school suspension, the school district is required to take steps to prevent the same behavior and return the student to the classroom to minimize loss of academic instruction.

  • District of Columbia Law limits suspension and expulsion of pre-kindergarten students, effective June 25, 2015. DC law prohibits the suspension or expulsion of a student of pre-kindergarten age from any publicly funded prekindergarten program, unless a school administrator determines that the student has willfully caused or attempted to cause bodily injury, or threatened serious bodily injury to another person, excluding self-defense.

  • Massachusetts Law, Act 222, discourages schools from utilizing exclusionary discipline for minor offenses. Effective July 1, 2014. The law requires districts and charter schools to include the specific reason for any suspension or expulsion of a student in their yearly data reports to the Department of Education. It requires principals to create a "school-wide education service plan" for any student suspended for 10 days or more. It clarifies the rights of suspended and expelled students to receive educational services while not physically present in school and requires a principal to notify the superintendent in writing of the out-of-school suspension of a student enrolled in kindergarten through third grade, the alleged misconduct, and the reasons for out-of-school, before the suspension take effect. 

  • Maryland Law, HB 0425, limits out-of-school suspensions for students in grades 2 and below. Effective July 2017. The law prohibits the suspension or expulsion of prekindergarten, kindergarten, first and second grades from public schools for more than 5 days with exceptions for certain violent or drug-related offenses. 

  • Michigan Laws, HB5618, HB5619, HB5693, HB5694, mandate Michigan public schools to make certain considerations and take specific steps before utilizing exclusionary discipline. Effective August 1, 2017. The laws requiring schools to consider student's age, disability status, behavior record, and whether the infraction caused significant danger. They also require schools to utilize restorative practices as alternatives to suspensions and expulsions in certain situations. The law clarify that students can be expelled for weapons offenses, but that is not required by law. 

District Policies​​

  • Philadelphia School District ends suspensions from kindergarten through second grade. June 21, 2018. Kindergarten, first, and second grade students shall not be suspended from school unless their actions result in serious bodily injury. See new policy, administrative procedurespress release. and article.

  • Pittsburgh Public Schools revises student discipline policy for pre-K through second grade, December 20, 2017. Effective September 1, 2018, the district prohibits the out of school suspension of students in grades prior to the third grade for non-violent minor disciplinary infractions, as defined by the district. See article.

  • Austin Texas Independent School District revises student discipline for pre-K through second grade, February 27, 2017. No elementary student prior to third grade shall be home suspended, placed into a disciplinary alternative education program or expelled, unless when required by law or for behavior that represents a clear and present danger of physical injury to the student, other students or school personnel. Principals and teachers must also consult parents or guardians prior to a home suspension. The district will provide additional staff to support schools in their efforts to address discipline challenges and student behavior and provide professional development to school officials to create a “responsive and supportive learning environment.”

  • Dallas Texas Independent School District revises discipline policy for students in pre-K–2nd grade. February 23, 2017. Beginning in the Fall of 2017, students in pre-K–2nd grade who commit Level 1 offenses — the lowest-level infractions such as classroom disruption and bus misconduct — will not receive out-of-school suspensions. Level 2 and 3 offenses – such as fighting and bullying – can still be punishable with out-of-school suspensions. School staff will receive ongoing training on behavior management practices that increase a positive school climate and deescalate disciplinary challenges. The District shall use disaggregated disciplinary data to inform actions that identify inequities and reduce student discretionary suspensions with the goal to eliminate such suspensions by the 2022-23 school year except as required by law. The District will also identify the top third of elementary schools with the highest percentage of disciplinary actions that need additional support, and annually report on student disciplinary data to the board.

  • Seattle (Washington) School District, resolution No. 2014/15-35. Effective with the 2015-16 school year, eliminates out-of-school suspensions for students kindergarten through 5th grade for “disruptive conduct,” “rule breaking,” or “disobedience.” The policy directs the superintendent to develop a proposal by June 2016 for a district-wide reduction in out-of-school suspensions at all grade levels, paying special attention to disproportionality in discipline for students of color, Special Education, and English Language Learners.

  • Minneapolis Public Schools introduces moratorium on elementary suspensions for Nonviolence. In 2014, Minneapolis Public Schools superintendent Bernadeia Johnson declared a moratorium on suspensions for students in first grade and younger for nonviolent behavior. In 2015 the following superintendent extended the moratorium on suspensions for nonviolent behavior through the fifth grade. The current district policy does not prohibit suspensions for K-5, but requires schools to consider a student’s age and understanding for K-5 students before removal from school.

  • Chicago Public School system modifies suspension policy for pre-K through 2nd grade, September 2, 2014. Amended Student Code of Conduct places stronger limits on the use of suspensions and emphasizes instructive, corrective, and restorative responses to student behavior. The code requires high level authorization for suspensions of pre-kindergarten through second grade students.

  • Baltimore Public Schools modifies student code of conduct for 2014-2015. Under the revised policy, administrators must contact the director of suspension services for guidance and support before proposing Level 3 or 4 consequences (short-term suspensions, extended suspensions, or transfer to an alternative program) if the student is in Pre‑K or kindergarten.

  • Houston School District restricts disciplinary actions that may be taken against students prior to the third grade, January 2016. Beginning with the 2016–2017 school year, no student shall be informally sent home. No student prior to third grade shall be suspended, placed into a disciplinary alternative setting, or expelled, except as required by law. Disciplinary actions that remove students from their school setting shall be used as a last resort for other elementary students in third through fifth grades.

  • Denver Public Schools, as of March 2017, prohibits lengthy suspensions for prekindergarten through third graders. The district permits only one day maximum out-of-suspensions for students in preschool through third grades and only for severe behavior offenses that impact student or staff safety. Children in preschool through third grades can only be expelled for bringing a firearm to school. 

 

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877-PHL-ACLU (745-2258)

Last updated March 30, 2020

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