Ohio lawmaker seeks ban on suspending young students


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio lawmaker said she was stunned to learn that thousands of elementary students are suspended for disobedience or disruptions each school year and plans to introduce legislation that would ban such punishment except in cases where a student threatens to harm.

State Sen. Peggy Lehner, a Kettering Republican who leads the education committee, said a better alternative is training for teachers on how to de-escalate misbehavior, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

According to a state database, there were more than 17,000 suspensions or expulsions in preschool through third grade for disobedient or disruptive behavior during Ohio’s 2015-16 school year. More than 2,000 kindergartners were suspended for fighting or violence.

Lehner is seeking input from teachers and school officials before advancing her proposal. While local education officials agree early grade suspensions and expulsions should be rare, most oppose a state-imposed ban and prefer that discipline policies be left up school districts.

“Students do need to be in school. We should not be pushing them out of school, particularly at those young grades,” said Mt. Healthy Superintendent Reva Cosby. “But I don’t think that we should take that option away. I think we are knowledgeable, and we should know when it rises to that level.”

Mt. Healthy City Schools had more than 600 suspensions and expulsions for kindergarten through third grade in the 2015-16 school year.

Greg Landsman, a Cincinnati City Council candidate who ran an education nonprofit, said a student who is repeatedly suspended will “inevitably come to the conclusion that he or she does not belong there.”

“Dropping out becomes highly likely,” he said. “And nobody wants that.”

Landsman said schools should attack the root of the problem rather than symptoms of the misbehavior by making therapists and counselors available to unruly children.

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