On May 1, 2018, the D.C. Council unanimously voted to approve, on final reading, Councilmember Grosso's Student Fair Access to School Amendment Act of 2018 which aims to reduce the use of exclusionary discipline in both traditional public and public charter schools in the District of Columbia.
The law 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.
You can read the Committee Report on the legislation which gives insight into the reasoning for the bill, however, a number of changes were made after the bill was passed out of Committee. The major changes include:
- Phasing limits on out-of-school suspensions for K-5 in SY19-20, along with 6-8;
- Clarifying what rises to the level of “bodily injury” and “emotional distress”, and that schools/LEAs have the ability to provide further specificity in their own policies;
- Raising the limit on out-of-school suspension days for grades 6-8 to 10 consecutive days;
- Removing the language that would trigger a manifestation determination review after 5 days rather than 10; and
- Changing the definition of in-school suspension to exclude supportive services like restorative conference or counseling, but requiring schools to still report the use of those interventions if an in-school suspension would have been warranted, to deter misclassification of interventions.
Councilmember Grosso included funding for much of the bill in the FY2019 budget, including over $2 million directly to schools through the Uniform Per Student Funding Formula. The budget also included additional funding for OSSE to provide support to schools:
- $450,000 additional for restorative justice practices;
- $400,000 for other training and supports;
- $1.4 million for community schools grants;
- $300,000 to collect further data and conduct a long-term evaluation of the law and any unintended consequences.
An additional $3 million was added to the budget the Department of Behavioral Health for new behavioral health clinicians in schools. These appropriations fulfilled the “subject to appropriations” clause for much of the bill, but not for the limits on the use of out-of-school suspension set to take effect in SY19-20 andSY20-21. For those to take effect, the Mayor and Council will need to identify and approve approximately $6M in additional dollars in the FY2020 budget cycle.