Senate approves bill to ban suspension of Texas’ youngest students


The Texas Senate passed a bill Wednesday, 17-13, that would bar school officials from suspending students in third grade and lower.

Senate Bill 370, by state Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, makes some exceptions for violent behavior, bringing a weapon onto school property or dealing drugs or alcohol.

The House passed a similar bill last week.

“It’s hard for me to even imagine what a little child that age would do to merit an expulsion,” Garcia said. “For tender ages like this, we ought to let kids be kids.”

Garcia said that suspensions disproportionately affect black and Latino boys and students with special needs. Such students are more likely to then fall behind and dislike school, possibly leading them down paths toward academic failure and serving time in prison, she said.

Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, who voted against the bill, said he’s not aware of the school districts in his area suspending their youngest students. He said he fears that creating a blanket policy would have unintended consequences.

“It’s too overreaching. I think it goes too far. I think that we continue to undermine the disciplinary actions that used to be available to school districts,” Perry said.

Some large urban school boards, including the Austin, Houston and Dallas school districts, have passed policies to prohibit the suspension of young students. In February, the Austin school board approved a policy to ban suspensions, expulsions or alternative disciplinary programs for students in prekindergarten through second grade.

Hundreds of students in those grades are suspended from Austin schools every year. While numbers have been decreasing, black, Latino and special education students are suspended in disproportionate numbers, the American-Statesman has reported. Of the 351 prekindergarten- through second-grade students suspended last year, 85 percent were black or Latino. Some offenses include using rude language and leaving without permission.

The bill encourages school districts to adopt “positive behavioral intervention and support” models that can be used in the classroom as alternatives to suspension. Garcia said such a model encourages teachers to tell students what to do instead of telling them what not to do.



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