House Bill 2767 would limit the suspension and expulsion of kids in Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade. If you think suspending or expelling a 5 year old sounds crazy, we’re with you, but you should know, it’s happening in Washington, and it’s happening a lot.
In Spokane, elementary school students make up the bulk of suspensions. Eighty-six kindergartners were suspended a total of 225 times in 2017 in Spokane Public Schools. And out of all district suspensions, 88% were students who qualify for free and reduced lunch even though those students make up 56% of student population.
It is time we recognize that removing 5 and 6 year olds from a classroom for running in the halls or being “willfully disobedient” is extreme discipline and does not help our student thrive.
We are penalizing kids for being kids.
And of course, Kids of color are disproportionately targeted by Washington schools’ intolerance to the normal activities of early elementary students. Black and brown children are getting a message that they are “criminal” at an early age, setting them up for failure later on.
HB 2767 might actually say it best:
Research indicates that school expulsion and suspension practices are associated with negative educational and life outcomes. Suspension and expulsion remove children from learning environments where they can develop social-emotional, behavioral, and academic skills, and they set children on a negative path early in their school education. Nationwide, students of color and students with disabilities are more likely to be suspended or expelled, exacerbating opportunity gaps. The legislature intends to eliminate the developmentally inappropriate use of suspension and expulsion as a response to behavior for children in grades kindergarten through two, and to encourage schools and districts to adopt evidence-based practices to support students in meeting behavioral expectations.