Washington DC- Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) announced that he has introduced new legislation, the Keep Kids in School Act, that would aim to reduce suspensions in schools across Pennsylvania and throughout the nation. In 2012, the most recent year for which we have data; nearly 3.5 million children were suspended. Suspensions disproportionately affect students of color and students with disabilities, leaving them further behind their peers. Black students are suspended and expelled at a rate three times higher than white students and Latino students are also suspended at a higher rate. Students with disabilities are more than twice as likely to be suspended as those without.
“Many of our schools are taking substantial steps to reduce the number of suspensions. This legislation will give more schools the tools they need to keep children in the place that is most likely to lead to a successful life- the classroom,” Senator Casey said. “Over the course of one school year, the number of children suspended could fill the seats at Heinz Field nearly 54 times. That’s far too many.”
Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers: "Teachers want to make a difference in children's lives, and we know the first step is getting kids to school and ensuring school is both a place that meets their needs and a place they want to be. That's why we want to address the fact that African-American boys and girls, Latino boys and girls, students with disabilities, and LGBT students are disproportionately affected by suspensions," said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. "The Keep Kids in School Act does far more than highlight the problem; it proposes viable solutions and funding so teachers have the supports, and schools have the funding, needed to create a positive school environment for all kids."
Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights: “Zero tolerance policies, corporal punishment, suspensions, and expulsions have long had a discriminatory impact on students of color and students with disabilities. When students of color and students with disabilities commit the same offense as others, they are far more likely to be suspended, expelled, subject to physical punishment, and referred to the police. These disparities start a vicious cycle for these students, who fall further behind in class time, suffer from lower self-esteem, and then either drop out or land in the criminal justice system. Passage of the Keep Kids in School Act would be an important step forward in on the path to narrowing this deep-seated disparity and toward creating a more equitable education system."
Research has shown that higher suspensions rates closely correlate to high dropout and delinquency rates. High school graduates are more likely to be employed, healthier, productive members of society. A recent study in Kentucky showed that schools with high rates of suspension can even negatively impact the achievement of students who do not misbehave. Suspensions and expulsions have tremendous costs not only for students but for society as a whole. It is imperative that we do all we can to keep kids in school.
To Keep Kids in School and Learning, This Bill:
- Asks states and school districts to prioritize plans to reduce suspensions and expulsions, particularly in schools with high numbers of suspensions and expulsions and wide disparities in them.
- Clarifies that states and school districts can use their Title II federal resources for professional development to train and support teachers, principals, and other school staff on evidence based practices and support systems that improve school climate and reduce the number of suspensions and expulsions.
- Codifies a uniform definition of suspension and expulsion for public schools. These definitions are already used by the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) in the Department of Education.
- Asks schools to report annually on things like the number of suspensions and expulsions broken down by grade, race, and disability category. While the vast majority of this data is already collected annually because of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or biannually through OCR regulation, this would codify the requirement.
- Provides additional resources and technical support for implementing professional development for school districts that are struggling with high numbers and disparities of suspensions and expulsions.
This legislation is supported by:
- Alliance for Excellent Education
- American Federation of Teachers
- American School Counselors Association
- Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates
- Easter Seals
- Futures without Violence
- Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights
- Learning Disabilities Association of America
- NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc.
- National Association for the Education of Young Children
- National Association of Elementary School Principals
- National Association of School Psychologists
- National Association of Secondary School Principals
- National Council of La Raza
- National Center on Learning Disabilities
- National Education Association
- School Social Work Association of America