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Senate Proposal to Ban School Suspensions for Pre K to 3rd Grade

(L to R) Sen Gayle Manning R-North Ridgeville, Peggy Lehner R-Kettering, Cincinnati Public Schools Superintendent Laura Mitchell (OGT/Ohio Channel)

The chairman of the Ohio Senate Education Committee wants to ban suspensions and expulsions of young pupils.   In introducing the so-called SAFE Act today (Tues) the sponsors say kicking kids out of school does more harm than good. 


Education Committee chair Peggy Lehner met with the Ohio School Boards Association and asked them how many Ohio students were sent home for 3 day suspensions in 2015.   The highest estimate she heard was 5,000.  In reality, Lehner says it was 36,000. 


She says there’s no evidence that suspensions or expulsions improve behavior or the school climate.


 “We would never consider punishing a child because they don’t know how to count or identify their colors.   But we need to recognize that a lack of social or emotional skills is something we need to be correcting not punishing.” 


The Supporting Alternatives for Fair Education Act would be phased in over 4 years but eventually ban out-of-school suspensions for Pre-K through third grades. Violent kids could be suspended under certain circumstances but only for 1 day.


Senator Gayle Manning, a former teacher, says it does no good to punish pupils who lack social or emotional skills by making them miss school.


“For children, school is a place for them to learn what is acceptable and what is not. As teachers, it’s also our job to put them on the right track so problematic behaviors do not follow them into adulthood. “


Sponsors say troubled kids should be put in alternative classrooms where they can continue to get an education.  The bill does not provide funds to staff the alternative classes.


Lehner says Senate leadership wants to add some money so teachers can learn ways to improve the social and emotional skills of children.  She added it’s a mistake to judge parents.


“You can’t teach what you don’t know.”   


The bill would leave it up to local districts to decide how to work with the children. 

Becky Higgins, the president of the Ohio education Association, released a statement saying the teachers’ union supports the bill:


“OEA supports legislation that would eliminate the ability of school districts to apply out-of-school suspensions of students ages 9 and under. The only exceptions should be for students who bring a weapon to school or who pose a physical threat to others.”