For Immediate Release:
November 21, 2017
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 -

Grosso introduces bill to reduce exclusionary discipline in D.C. schools

Washington, D.C. – Building on his work to end the school-to-prison pipeline, increase school safety, and put every child in the best position to succeed, Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), chairperson of the Committee on Education, today introduced legislation aimed at curbing the use of exclusionary discipline at schools in the District of Columbia.

The Student Fair Access to School Act of 2017 limits out-of-school suspension of students in kindergarten through eighth grade to the most serious of circumstances and bans its utilization in high school for minor offenses. If exclusion becomes necessary, it protects a child’s right to an education while they are off premises and requires a plan for the student to successfully return to the classroom.

“Every student has a right to an education, which suspensions and expulsions potentially deprive them of,” Grosso said. “Even as we are in the midst of a citywide campaign to encourage every student to attend school every day, thousands of students are pushed out of school buildings each year as a result of excessive use of exclusionary discipline practices.”

According to the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, over 7,000 D.C. students—about 1 in 10 kindergarten through 12th grade students—were suspended or expelled during the 2015-2016 school year.

OSSE also found that African-American students in D.C. are seven times more likely to be suspended than their peers and students who are economically disadvantaged, receiving special education services, or at-risk of academic failure were twice as likely to get sent home.

“We know how negatively suspensions and expulsions affect the students pushed out of school—they are more likely to fail academically, to drop out, and to end up involved in the criminal justice system,” Grosso said. “We need to change our approach to set every student up for academic success.”

Additionally, the bill outlines the supports that the Office of the State Superintendent of Education must provide to schools and educators to promote these goals, including developing a trauma-informed educator certification and increasing supports for schools for restorative justice and mindfulness practices.

“This culture shift will require the full investment of D.C. government to be successful,” Grosso said. “I plan to increase funding for behavioral health staff in schools and professional development for school staff in the coming fiscal year 2019 budget.”

“I greatly appreciate the engagement of the school leaders, government agencies, policy experts, and education advocates who engaged with me and my staff over the last several months,” Grosso said. “The Student Fair Access to School Act is a direct result of a collaborative, months-long process and I encourage continued input throughout the legislative process.”