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Grosso Bill to Ban Suspensions of Pre-K Students

Dorothy Rowley | 7/14/2014, 12:49 p.m.
A new bill by D.C. Council member David Gross seeks to ban suspensions of pre-kindergarten students.

D.C. Council member David Grosso (I-At Large) introduced a bill Monday that bans the suspension of 3- and 4-year-old children from publicly funded programs in the city, keeping in line with his push for equitable education reform.

Grosso said his bill was spurred by a report from the Office of the State Superintendent, which found that of the roughly 10,000 public school students suspended during the 2012-13 school year, 181 were enrolled in pre-kindergarten programs.

"While I understand that children at times can be difficult, I have a hard time understanding what behavior of a 3- or 4-year old would constitute an out-of-school suspension or expulsion," Grosso said. "We are beginning the school-to-prison pipeline before some students even have the opportunity to fully begin their educational pursuits."

Numerous studies have shown that students who are suspended from school, at any age, tend to perform poorly academically and drop out of high school than those who have not been suspended. Civil rights organizations such as The Advancement Project in D.C. have released data showing that children of color suffer higher rates of suspensions and expulsions than whites, even for the same offenses.

Many school districts throughout the nation, including Prince George's County, have already begun changing their polices on suspensions. According to a statement from Grosso's office, the Chicago Public School Board of Education voted last month to prohibit the suspension of students in pre-K through 2nd grade, except for cases involving extreme safety concerns.

Washington state disallows long-term suspensions of students from kindergarten to 4th grade, and none of them can be suspended for more than of 10 school days during a semester. New York City also decided in recent years that no student from kindergarten to 3rd grade can be suspended longer than five days.

"Regardless of which sector our youngest public school students begin their education, it's in the public interest that the most extreme options with regard to student discipline be age- and developmentally-appropriate," Grosso said.

James Wright contributed to this article.

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