For Immediate Release:
May 1, 2018
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 -

Council unanimously passes Grosso’s bill to transform discipline in D.C. schools

Washington, D.C. – In a unanimous vote, the Council of the District of Columbia today passed legislation authored by Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) that limits the use of exclusionary discipline in D.C. traditional public and public charter schools.

“The Student Fair Access to School Act is transformational—it breaks the traditional model of school discipline which pushes students out of school and, too often, into the courts,” said Grosso of the legislation, one of the most expansive and comprehensive school discipline reform laws in the country. “This shifting mindset will result in students being better prepared to succeed academically and safer school environments for all.”

The Student Fair Access to School Amendment Act of 2018 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.

“Suspensions and expulsions are contributing to the achievement gap in our schools,” Grosso said. “For our students of color, our young girls, and our students who need additional educational supports, this is a civil rights bill.”

Last year, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) released data showing that Black students were eight times more likely to be suspended than White students, an increase over the previous year’s rate. Additionally, students with disabilities and at-risk students were two times and one-and-a-half times more likely to be suspended than their peers, respectively. The U.S. Department of Education recently released national data that mirrored these findings.

Grosso will now turn to providing funding for positive behavioral supports in schools which produce safer school climates and better learning conditions for all students.

“In addition to this legislation, I look forward to making the necessary investments in school-based mental and behavioral health supports and alternative discipline programs when the Committee on Education marks up the fiscal year 2019 budget later this week,” Grosso said.

 “The Student Fair Access to School Act is the result of over a year of work, which included input from students, parents, teachers, school leaders, student and family advocates, researchers, mental health practitioners, government agency heads, and my colleagues. I appreciate that time and input immensely and urge the mayor to join us in this effort on behalf of students by signing Fair Access into law.”

The passage of the legislation is the latest success in Councilmember Grosso’s work to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline since joining the Council in 2013. That year, Grosso secured language requiring data collection and reporting from each local education agency on their utilization of exclusionary discipline. The first law he passed when he became chairperson of the Committee on Education in 2015 banned the suspension or expulsion of pre-kindergarten students. He also included language in the School Attendance Clarification Amendment Act that ended the practice of suspending and expelling minors who were late to school or had an unexcused absence and has increased annual investments in alternative discipline programs, such as restorative justice, and community schools.