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New Bill to Stop Suspensions for Elementary Students

December 13, 2017 | Written by Dan Margolis

The Ohio Senate plans to introduce a bill that will gradually eliminate the majority of suspensions for elementary students in the third grade and below, including preschool. According to the proposed bill championed by Republican State Senator Peggy Lehner, elementary schools in Ohio would be required to stop the practice of suspending these young students for minor offenses. However, schools would still have the authority to suspend kids when they pose a physical danger to others.

With more than 15 years of education law experience defending the rights of Ohio students, education law attorney Daniel M. Margolis is highly equipped to provide you with vigorous and intelligent advocacy regardless of whether the matter involves the suspension, expulsion, or another serious issue involving your child and their education.

Contact The Law Office of Daniel M. Margolis, LLC today at (216) 533-9533 to schedule a free and confidential case consultation.

SAFE Act

The planned bill, entitled the Supporting Alternatives for Fair Education Act (SAFE), has received support from fellow state Senators Cecil Thomas (Democrat), and Gayle Manning (Republican).

Here’s what the SAFE Act does:

  • Requires schools to reduce number of suspensions for non-violent behavior 25 percent a year for four years.
  • Under the bill, students who pose a danger would be immediately removed from school for a single day, as opposed to the current three days, before the time away from school counts as a suspension.
  • Training programs for teachers would include a semester-long course covering positive ways to manage problematic student behavior.
  • Teachers without the necessary training would be required to obtain it through the school within the next three years.
  • Schools would be required to report their progress with implementing the state-mandated Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports Disciplinary Plan.
  • Schools would be required to provide additional mental health services to problem students.

Arguments for the Bill

At a press conference introducing the bill, State Senator Lehner referenced research that links high suspension rates of minority and disabled students with underachieving academic performance. She noted, however, that “where the child is a danger to their fellow classmates,” and when the student brings a dangerous weapon to school, suspensions would be allowed under federal law.

Bringing a knife, gun, or bomb to school, or posing a physical danger to other students or teachers, gives schools the authority under federal law to suspend the student. The proposed bill would amend Ohio’s definition of a knife to such instruments that are “capable of causing serious bodily injury.” This would exclude plastic or butter knives from that category.

Suspensions for elementary students may also be imposed when the issue involves serious assaults or bringing illegal substances to school.

In 2015, there were more than 36,000 suspensions of students in preschool to the third grade in the state of Ohio. Lehner stated that only five to eight percent of suspensions and expulsions in the state involve violent situations. The obvious conclusion is that the vast majority of young student suspensions are given for non-violent behavioral disruptions.

“Research is pretty clear that one of the factors contributing to the achievement gap is the considerable amount of time struggling students spend out of the classroom. Already academically behind, suspensions only push them further and further behind and leave them feeling unwanted in the classroom,” Lehner said.

If the proposed bill becomes law, each individual school or school district would have the right to control how they establish student behavior interventions in place of suspensions. Lehner stated that the Ohio Senate may include funding of up to $3 million in the bill to help pay for school training costs. Additional costs for increased school staffing may be required as well.

Cautions Raised About Safety

Many school districts in suburban communities have a “zero-tolerance policy” for certain student behaviors that cause automatic suspensions for elementary students.

David Romick, president of Dayton Public Schools’ teachers union, expressed a favorable view of attempting to keep students in school rather than simply suspend them, but strongly advised legislators to maintain the priority of student and school staff safety.

He stated, “to the extent possible, we should keep kids in school and use restorative practices to do that and address the behaviors. But there have to be alternatives to remove a student from a classroom or a school situation if they pose a danger to the students and staff.”

Contact a Skilled Education Law Attorney

At The Law Office of Daniel M. Margolis, LLC, attorney Daniel M. Margolis is ready to defend the rights of your child, regardless of the issue involved – whether that is suspension, freedom of speech, bullying, access to education, or expulsion. Attorney Daniel M. Margolis has extensive experience providing successful advocacy for students.

Contact The Law Office of Daniel M. Margolis, LLC today at to set up a free, no-obligation consultation.

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