Changes to school suspension, expulsion considered

The Education Committee heard testimony March 7 on bills intended to prevent the suspension of young students and ensure expelled students are able to graduate on time.

Sen. Terrell McKinney
Sen. Terrell McKinney

Under LB632, introduced by Omaha Sen. Terrell McKinney, a school in a metropolitan class city could not suspend a student in pre-kindergarten through second grade. Omaha is the state’s only metropolitan class city.

The bill also would require a school to develop a policy that includes disciplinary measures inside the school as an alternative to suspension.

McKinney said Omaha Public Schools disproportionately suspends and expels minority students. LB632 is intended to ensure that OPS uses alternatives to those practices, which can lead to poor academic outcomes and involvement in the juvenile or criminal justice systems, he said.

“Instead of pushing students out, teachers need more support and training for effective discipline,” McKinney said, “and schools need to use best practices for behavior modification and keep kids in schools where they belong.”

LB340, also sponsored by McKinney, would clarify that Nebraska school districts’ alternative schools, classes or educational programs for suspended or expelled students must enable a student to continue all academic work they otherwise would have had access to had they not been expelled.

Elizabeth Eynon-Kokrda testified in support of both bills on behalf of Education Rights Council. She said OPS suspends students in pre-kindergarten through second grade — particularly Black students and students with disabilities — at a much higher rate than older students.

Under LB632, Eynon-Kokrda said, young students who violate a school’s code of conduct by acting out would receive additional services and support instead of being removed from the classroom.

Eynon-Kokrda said LB340 would ensure that expulsion does not prevent a student from graduating by clarifying that schools must give expelled students the opportunity to obtain the credits they need.

“We have a myriad of ways that we can create and guarantee that children have the opportunity to access all of their credit while they are expelled,” she said.

Connie Edmond testified in support of LB632 on behalf of the Nebraska Commission on African American Affairs, saying suspension from school sends a “message of rejection” to young children that has a lasting effect on their emotional well-being.

She said children who are suspended or expelled between the ages of 4 and 8 are 25 percent more likely to drop out of school and 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime in later years.

“Suspension from school sets children up for failure,” Edmond said, “and there are no second chances.”

Also in support of LB632 was Anahí Salazar of Voices for Children in Nebraska. She said preschool children are three times more likely than K-12 students to be suspended, often due to nonviolent, developmentally appropriate behavior.

“Policing small students on minor infractions, many or all of which they are still learning to control, sends the message to them that they are a problem, that they don’t belong in school,” Salazar said.

No one testified in opposition to either proposal and the committee took no immediate action on them.

Bookmark and Share