Student Fair Access to School Act of 2017
UPDATE: On March 13, 2018, the Committee on Education unanimously approved Councilmember Grosso's Student Fair Access to School Amendment Act of 2018 (originally introduced in November 2017 as the Student Fair Access to School Act of 2017). The legislation limits out-of-school suspension of students in kindergarten through eighth grade to serious safety incidents and bans its utilization in high school for minor offenses. If exclusion becomes necessary, the bill 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.
Introduced: November 21, 2017
Co-introducers: Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Brianne K. Nadeau, Mary Cheh
Summary: To establish parameters for local education agencies’ discipline policies to ensure student safety and access to education, including limits on the use of suspensions and expulsions, reporting, and supports provided by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education to promote trauma-informed educational settings.
Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:
I started working on this bill last spring, looking at the research and what other jurisdictions are doing.
Starting in July I convened several working group meetings with school leaders, advocates, and government officials to discuss the legislation.
Over 25 charter LEAs and DCPS have weighed in, and I have spoken directly with teachers, school leaders, parents, students, advocates, lawyers, researchers, and other experts about the language in the bill.
We may not all agree, but I have solicited and received feedback far and wide on these provisions and made many changes to reflect that engagement.
I have visited a dozen schools recently, and most are already moving in this direction, so it will not be a heavy lift for them to comply with this law.
This bill would limit the use of suspension and expulsion in kindergarten through 8th grade to instances of physical and emotional injury, whether actual, attempted, or threatened.
It would ban suspensions in high school for minor incidents like disobedience or uniform violations.
It would require schools--both DCPS and charters--to have discipline policies that avoid exclusion, address bias, and seek the root causes of misbehavior.
Despite the progress made over the past years, black students in D.C. are 7 times more likely to be suspended than white students—that should outrage us all.
When those students are suspended, they are more likely to fail academically, to drop out, and to end up involved in the criminal justice system.
Research also shows that these practices do not make schools safer, and may actually harm other students.
This bill is about ensuring student success, and disrupting the school-prison pipeline.