Thursday, March 27, 2014
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Lightford: Suspension or expulsion should be a last resort, not standard punishment
SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood) believes that Illinois schools need to seriously revise their policies on suspending and expelling students, and she’s sponsoring legislation to set the process in motion. Her plan, Senate Bill 3004, passed the Education Committee and will be considered by the full Senate.
“Pulling children out of the classroom doesn’t help them learn, and too many of them don’t even see it as punishment,” Lightford said. “Suspension or expulsion should only be used as a last resort and only in cases where students are a danger to others or seriously disrupt the learning process.”
Lightford’s call for reform is inspired in part by the fact that a disproportionate number of African American students are expelled each year. For example, in 2012, 537 African American students were expelled. The same number of white students was expelled. However, 50.6 percent of students in Illinois schools are white, and 17.6 percent are black.
Senator Lightford’s plan to reform the expulsion and suspension process does the following:
• Prohibits school boards from establishing zero-tolerance policies unless required by state or federal law
• Limits out of school suspensions that last longer than three days to very limited circumstances, including to protect the safety of other students and staff and to avoid significant disruptions
• Requires school districts to provide behavioral support services to children suspended or expelled for more than three days
• Prohibits law enforcement from arresting children for misdemeanors at school, except in certain specific circumstances
• Requires schools to submit detailed reports explaining why each suspension that lasts more than three days is necessary
• Prohibits school employees from encouraging students to drop out rather than face discipline
A related measure, co-sponsored by Senator Lightford, also passed the committee. It requires schools to collect and share data on expulsions, suspensions and arrests, as well as demographic information. VFP