Virginia bill limits suspension for pre-school to 3rd graders

Many suspensions for cellphones, insubordination, disrespect and language

By Jenna Zibton - Anchor

ROANOKE, Va. - A bill to limit the number of days some students can be suspended passed the Virginia Senate and is on the way to the House.

If passed, students in preschool through third grade could only be suspended for three school days, unless the threat involves drugs, guns, physical harm or a credible threat.

Senator Bill Stanley who represents parts of Southside, Carroll and Franklin counties introduced the bill.

"Virginia schools continue to suspend very young students at an astonishing rate, issuing over 17,300 short-term suspensions and at least 93 long-term suspensions just to children in pre-K through 3rd grade. The vast majority of all suspensions were issued for minor offenses, with approximately two-thirds of all suspensions issued for behavior offenses like: possession of cell phones, minor insubordination, disrespect, and using inappropriate language," said Stanley.

"When we needlessly suspend these young children for significant periods of time for nothing more than disruptive behavior, the negative effects on the child can be significant; and, we may be overlooking mental health issues or issues at home that are the root cause of the behavior.  When we needlessly suspend children, the message that we are sending to these young people is that they are unworthy and different from everyone else.  Often times, the suspended child is unaware as to why they were sent away from the classroom and their friends - they are just too young and immature to learn from this form of punishment.  We should be looking for new solutions for unsatisfactory behaviors instead of taking suspension or expulsion punitive steps.  We need to disrupt the destructive pipeline from the school house to the court house. Treating these young people progressively worse with the expectation that the behaviors will be progressively better is missing the long term objective of allowing them to grow up to be productive citizens. Keeping these young people in the education environment is critical to achieving this objective," said Stanley.

SB 170 has the support of the Virginia School Superintendents, the Virginia School Board Association, the Virginia Education Association and numerous other stakeholders.

Copyright 2018 by WSLS 10 - All rights reserved.