Friday, March 3, 2017

Kindergarten suspension? Take action

UPDATE 3/8/2017: There is a floor amendment that defeats the intent of this bill. It would allow students to be removed from school for up to 12 or 18 days a year (depending on whether semesters or trimesters are used). In a district like Seattle Public Schools, that means young learners could be removed on average twice a month. The Arc of King County cannot support if this amendment passes.

Organizations working to curb suspensions and expulsions in the K-2 grades need help getting a bill to the Senate floor for a vote. Following is a letter composed by the ACLU that they are sending (reprinted with permission). It has some excellent talking points that you can use with your state senators. The Arc of King County has signed on.

  • You can comment on the bill directly, here
  • Or if you prefer, you can find your district and contact information for your senator here
Contacting your senator is especially helpful if they are on the Rules Committee. (See list of King County senators on Rules, at the end of this post.)

Lieutenant Governor Habib and Senator Schoesler,

Every child deserves the opportunity to receive a quality education. They deserve the chance to stay in school even when they make mistakes, and they should be able to trust that their school is committed to helping them access learning opportunities.

In Washington State, however, K-2 suspensions and expulsions have gone up 40% since 2013. During the 2015-2016 school year, 5,000 students were suspended or expelled. Most students who are suspended or expelled at this age have disabilities, are students of color, and/or are experiencing some form of violent trauma. In effect, we are removing the children with the greatest life challenges from opportunities for academic and social learning.

Suspending or expelling young children does not work to change behavior. Instead, it can set students back for life, preventing them from forming a lifelong positive connection to academic achievement, teachers, and school. This leaves them 10 times more likely to be held back a grade, drop out of high school, and face incarceration. 

Instead, schools and districts should develop policies that support students with behavioral challenges. 

“There has to be a better way, and I know it starts with education and training of teachers. Schools that commit to a trauma-informed care framework can meet the children where they are and have the tools and empathy to support them, instead of using punitive measures to shelter other children from their existence.”

–Parent of recently expelled 2nd grader (anonymous for DV reasons)
SB 5155 would prohibit suspension and expulsion of students in kindergarten through second grade, except in the case of bringing a gun to school. It would instead require schools and districts to develop policies and procedures for supporting students with behavioral challenges, and encourage them to invest in evidence-based approaches such as trauma-informed schools, social-emotional learning, positive behavioral supports and intervention, and restorative practices. 

We, the undersigned, urge you to bring SB 5155 to the floor. We have a real opportunity to ensure that all children, regardless of race, class, gender expression, disability, or housing situation, have a chance to form a lifelong connection to learning. 

Thank you.
(List  of organizations)


This bill needs to pass the Senate before it can go to the House for consideration. The Senate Rules Committee decides whether and in what order bills should be considered for a floor vote. King County senators on Rules include:

Senator Maralyn Chase (D), 32nd LD, (360) 786-7662                
Senator Joe Fain (R) 47th LD, (360) 786-7692
Senator Bob Hasegawa, (D) 11th LD, (360) 786-7616
Senator Mark Miloscia, (R) 30th LD, (360) 786-7658
Senator Sharon Nelson, (D) 34th LD, (360) 786-7667