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Grosso Introduces Critical Legislation to Ban Pre-K Suspensions and Expulsions

Grosso Introduces Critical Legislation to Ban Pre-K Suspensions and Expulsions

 Washington, D.C. - Today, Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) introduced the “Pre-K Student Discipline Amendment Act of 2014.” This legislation prohibits the suspension or expulsion of a student of pre-kindergarten age from any publicly funded pre-kindergarten program operating in the District of Columbia. It also establishes annual reporting requirements for each local education agency on suspensions and expulsions data.

 Last month, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education released a report “Reducing Out-of-School Suspensions and Expulsions in the District of Columbia Public and Public Charter Schools.” The report found that during the 2012-2013 school year approximately 10,000 of the District’s 80,000 public school students were suspended at least once. One hundred and eighty one of those students were enrolled in prekindergarten programs.

While I understand that children at times can be difficult, I have a hard time understanding what behavior of a 3 or 4-year old would constitute an out-of-school suspension or expulsion,” said Councilmember Grosso. “We are beginning the school-to-prison pipeline before some students even have the opportunity to fully begin their educational pursuits.”

The adverse effects of out-of-school suspension and expulsion on a student can be profound. Data suggest that students who are involved in the juvenile justice system are likely to have been suspended or expelled. Further, students who experience out-of-school suspension and expulsion are as much as 10 times more likely to ultimately drop out of high school than are those who do not.

The District would not be the first jurisdiction to recognize that when it comes to our youngest students zero tolerance-style school discipline policies are not always appropriate. Just last month, the Chicago Public School Board of Education voted to prohibit the suspension of Pre-K through 2nd grade students except for cases involving extreme safety concerns. In Washington State, students in grades K-4 cannot receive long-term suspensions, and no student in grades K-4 can be suspended for more than a total of 10 school days during any single semester. In 2012, New York City decided that no student in grades K-3 shall be suspended for longer than 5 days.

“The conversation regarding student discipline is ripe in the District of Columbia. Regardless of which sector our youngest public school students begin their education, it is in the public interest that the most extreme options with regard to student discipline be age and developmentally appropriate.”





Grosso's Statement on Latest School Boundaries Proposal

For Immediate Release

June 16, 2014

Contact: Dionne Johnson Calhoun

(202) 724-8105


Grosso's Statement on Latest School Boundaries Proposal

On Thursday, June 12, the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education released an updated draft proposal on student assignment policies, DCPS school boundaries, and feeder patterns. After reviewing the proposal, Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) released the following statement:

"It is clear from the school boundary proposal released last week that the Deputy Mayor's office and the Advisory Committee heard and responded to the significant amount of community input they've received over the last few months. I am supportive of the direction this proposal is headed. It maintains a core system of neighborhood schools, while also preserving the opportunity for school choice. I am also pleased that diversity in student enrollment was kept as a top principle reflected in the Advisory Committee's decision to prioritize access to early childhood programs for at-risk students, and recommending "set asides" for out-of-boundary students in zoned elementary, middle, and high schools.

While I understand the concerns of some communities impacted by changing boundary lines or feeder patterns, it is my hope that the Advisory Committee's proposed grandfathering provisions will limit any abrupt changes for students and families. Unfortunately, revisions to the DCPS school boundaries are timely and cannot wait.

Though this proposal moves the conversation forward, I am disappointed that it did not include any discussion or recommendations regarding the need for proactive planning, collaboration, and coordination between DCPS and the D.C. Public Charter School Board when it comes to opening new charter schools in the District. If our goal is to have citywide student assignment policies that are coherent and efficient, charter schools must be a part of the conversation. I will continue to push for that.

Although the D.C. Council does not have a vote on student assignment policies or the school boundary proposal, we will ultimately have to work with the Executive to implement any plan that is approved. That includes the construction and re-opening of perhaps four middle schools and to work with WMATA to provide free Metrorail services for our high school-aged students. I am committed to working with my colleagues and the Executive to find the appropriate path forward.

I look forward to hearing more community discussions and feedback on what has been released and I encourage everyone to engage in the conversation in the coming weeks. I appreciate that the Deputy Mayor's office has taken the helm for this process and appreciate all of the members of the Advisory Committee who have volunteered to do this hard work."


To get more information and share your feedback on these proposed changes, you are invited to:

  • Attend a community meeting
    • June 16, 6 - 8 pm, Savoy Elementary School, 2400 Shannon Place, SE
    • June 17, 6 - 8 pm, Dunbar High School, 101 N Street, NW
    • June 19, 6 - 8 pm, Takoma Education Campus, 7010 Piney Branch Road, NW
  • Provide testimony at Council of the District of Columbia public oversight roundtable on school boundaries on June 26, 2014 at 9AM.  Call 202-724-8000 or e-mail to sign up.
  • Email your concerns and questions to or call 202-478-5738.





Report On Suspensions And Expulsions In D.C. Reveals Disturbing Trends, Need For More Data

Sarah Anne Hughes, on Jun 6, 2014

A report from the Office of the State Superintendent reveals that students who are black, male, in foster care, homeless, or who have mental health needs are disproportionately suspended or expelled from D.C. schools.

In the 2012-2013 school year, local education agencies reported that 5,042 students received in- and out-of-school suspensions and expulsions for violence, drugs, alcohol, and weapons. Students in 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th grades had the highest number of discipline events, but suspensions and expulsions even impacted children as young as three-years-old. During this period, there were 181 pre-K out-of-school suspensions for a federally reported disciplinary action. That number was 201 for kindergarten, 464 for 1st grade, 523 for 2nd, and 600 for 3rd.

"The idea that we would suspend somebody who's three- or four-years-old is just completely unreasonable," said Councilmember David Grosso, who mandated the report's creation.

Eddie Ferrer, Legal and Policy director for DC Lawyers for Youth, said the report confirms that suspensions and expulsions are overused in D.C. "They disproportionately impact poor kids of color, kids who have suffered or are suffering trauma, and kids with disabilities," he said. "We are suspending and expelling the kids who most need and would most benefit from being in a supportive school environment."

Black students from all D.C. schools are almost six times more likely to be disciplined than white students for alcohol, drugs, violence and weapons. Male students are 1.68 times more likely to be suspended or expelled for these reasons than female students, and homeless students are 1.2 times more likely to be disciplined this way.

While the report shows the racial and socioeconomic disparities in these forms of discipline, Ferrer said it underreports the problem. Indeed, the report primarily uses data on the type of incidents that are required to be reported federally. With this data, it appears that the vast majority of students are disciplined for violence without injury.

But according to a 2013 report from D.C. Lawyers for Youth, "the vast majority of DCPS suspensions are for offenses involving no weapons, no drugs, and no injury to another student. Further, the majority of these suspensions are not required by law or by school regulation, but carried out under discretionary authority."

Individual schools do release data on suspensions and expulsions in an Equity Report. From this data, we know that 12 percent of all students received an out-of-school suspension for at least one day during the 2012-2013 school year. Eight schools suspended at least 50 percent of all students for at least one day, while 37 schools reported suspending at least 25 percent.

But these reports do not reveal the exact reason these students were suspended. In their report, OSSE calls for an improvement in discipline-related data collection to improve transparency.

Ferrer and Grosso both called the report a good start. While OSSE recommends that D.C. schools not suspend out-of-school or expel pre-K students, both men believe this should apply to children in 3rd grade and below. "If those things were making any difference," Grosso said, "we wouldn't see ... a spike in suspensions and expulsions in middle school. What we would see is a drop-off if it had a positive impact during the elementary years."

Ferrer called the middle school suspension rate "incredibly disturbing."

"We have a big problem with truancy at the high school age," he said. "And I think part of the reason why is, by the time they're getting to high school, a number of students have been told 'We don't want you here.' They eventually learn that lesson."

OSSE agrees: "Recognizing that suspensions and expulsions actually increase the likelihood that students will misbehave in the future, become truant, fail to graduate, develop substance abuse issues, or encounter the juvenile justice system, LEAs should take particular care in the behavioral interventions being used to discipline our youngest students."

Grosso points to the Positive Behavior Intervention System, a preventive program, which "can decrease discipline referrals, suspensions and detentions, and disruptive classroom behavior, while increasing academic performance, on-task behavior, parent, student and staff satisfaction, and staff retention."

The report calls for LEAs to "evaluate discipline policies and procedures to ensure best practice in application, record keeping, training, and data analysis." When asked why this isn't already happening, Ferrer said it's part training and part support. "Despite the fact that so many resources are going to our schools, they're needed on the academic side," he said. "And we've been less effective at resourcing the wrap-around services and the social-emotional learning side of our schools."

There's also a cultural change that needs to happen, he said. That includes ensuring that kids are in school every day, and using suspensions and expulsions as a last resort.

"All of our schools need to be implementing programs that see the students where they are, at the point they are in life and their situation, and help address those situations," he said. "We have a long way to go to fully understand what's going on in the schools."



Video of our panel discussion on the school to prison pipeline

We had an excellent film screening and discussion on Wednesday about the school to prison pipeline. Thanks to Andy Shallal and Busboys & Poets for hosting us, to Adeleke Omitowoju and the Dream Defenders for the amazing film, and our incredible panelists and moderator, Thena Robinson Mock (The Advancement Project), Dr. Ian Roberts (The Academies at Anacostia), Eduardo Ferrer, (DC Lawyers for Youth), and Tiffany Loftin. You can watch the panel and the discussion below. Stay tuned for follow-up events.



Save the Date: May 14 film screening & discussion on school-to-prison pipeline

Break the Cycle: Ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline

Film screening and discussion

May 14, 2014, 6pm-8pm

Busboys and Poets 2021 14th St NW

RSVP for this event -- Please note that seating at the venue is first come, first serve

Join Councilmember David Grosso, Ghost Note Agency, and the Dream Defenders for a documentary screening and panel discussion on school discipline policies and the school-to-prison pipeline.

The documentary, produced by the Dream Defenders, examines current public policy and school discipline practices that have landed a disproportionate number of students of color trapped within the school-to-prison pipeline in urban cities such as the District of Columbia, Baltimore, and Philadelphia.

Following the screening, three panelists will share critical insight on the dynamics of the epidemic and trends happening nationally and locally.


  • Thena Robinson Mock, Project Director - Ending the Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Track, a project of The Advancement Project
  • Dr. Ian Roberts, Principal - The Academies at Anacostia
  • Eduardo Ferrer, Legal and Policy Director - DC Lawyers for Youth

Why attend?

  • The Impact of the School to Prison Pipeline has been made a national point of discussion by Attorney General Eric Holder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan
  • It costs approximately $47,000 per inmate per year to keep a young (and relatively healthy) inmate locked up.  
  • Minority students have less access to advanced courses, more inexperienced teachers and face tougher disciplinary consequences than their counterparts, a new trove of federal data shows, affirming long-held beliefs about disparities in the classroom.
  • 40 percent of Black youths with disabilities are arrested after leaving high school compared to 27 percent of White youths with disabilities.

For more information, please contact the Office of Councilmember David Grosso at (202) 724-8105.