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  September 13, 2016
 
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NJ BANS SCHOOL SUSPENSIONS, EXPULSIONS THROUGH SECOND GRADE

Groundbreaking legislation enacted on September 6 moves New Jersey to the forefront of the national effort to keep young children in school. The legislation, Senate Bill 2081, prohibits school districts from expelling and suspending students in preschool through second grade.

New Jersey joins a handful of other cities and states, including Philadelphia, New York City, California and Oregon, taking strong steps to curb harsh discipline policies for children in preschool and in the early grades.

NJ state law currently bans suspensions and expulsions for preschool students. Senate Bill 2081 extends the ban through second grade, except as provided in the State's "Zero Tolerance for Guns Act." Of critical importance, the law directs school districts to provide early detection and prevention programs to address behavioral issues that impact learning in preschool through second grade classrooms.

Research shows that suspending children at young ages can have a lasting impact on their academic success. Harsh discipline measures are also ineffective in helping children understand and manage their behavior in school. Sara Rimm-Kaufman of the University of Virginia has found that problematic behaviors in elementary school can be evidence of academic deficiencies that need to be addressed as early in a student's school career as possible.

Other research suggests that behavior problems may be signs of undiagnosed disabilities. Using suspensions as a way to address these problems not only deprives the child of important classroom learning time, but is also likely to exacerbate his or her academic and behavioral struggles, while not addressing the underlying causes of the behavior.

In 2014, California enacted legislation eliminating suspensions for children in kindergarten through third grade and banning the use of expulsions for all students for minor misbehaviors.

In 2015, Oregon significantly limited the basis for suspensions and expulsions for children in preschool through fifth grade.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced plans to eliminate suspensions for students in kindergarten through second grade.

"With the passing of this legislation, preschoolers and elementary students will be able to stay in school and build a solid foundation for academic success," said Shira Baron, an Equal Justice Works Fellow at Education Law Center working on school discipline who prepared ELC's testimony in support of the bill. "We are pleased that our youngest students will be kept in the classroom, placing New Jersey at the forefront of the nation on positive education reform."

Education Law Center Press Contact:

Molly A. Hunter

Education Justice, Director

mhunter@edlawcenter.org

973-624-1815, x 19

 
     
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