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New CT Law Prohibits Expelling or Suspending Students in Grades PK-2.

posted Sep 11, 2015, 5:34 AM by Diane Willcutts   [ updated Sep 11, 2015, 5:39 AM ]
Believe it or not, this law is necessary.  In the 2013-2014 school year, Connecticut schools suspended students under the age of 7 over 1,200 times.  This law applies to all students, but we should note that students with disabilities are suspended 2-3 times as often as their peers without disabilities.  

Why was this happening? Because teachers often have not been provided with enough training or support in their classrooms to be able to effectively address "behavior" in a positive way.  Suspension and expulsion do not change behavior; they simply provide school staff with a break from the student. Instead of using these ineffective methods, we need to provide teachers with more support.  Supports could include providing teachers with training in effective positive behavior interventions, bringing in a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) to analyze the function of the student's behavior and to advise how to effectively address it, consulting with a social worker, instituting smaller class sizes, exchanging our "zero tolerance" discipline policies for something effective, or something else.

Side note: it is not uncommon for students with disabilities to act out when their needs are not being adequately met, and many students with disabilities are not even identified.  Families and school staff need to be aware that Connecticut regulations require that students with even marginal behavior must be referred to a Planning and Placement Team meeting (PPT) to consider whether the child has a disability and is eligible for special education.  From 10-76d-7(d): "Provision shall be made for the prompt referral to a planning and placement team of all children who have been suspended repeatedly or whose behavior, attendance, including truant behavior, or progress in school is considered unsatisfactory or at a marginal level of acceptance."  This applies to students of any age.  Most parents and even school staff are not aware of this regulation, but following it could be a huge help to our teachers and students.

For further reading, the new law banning suspension and expulsion of young children is here.  The Connecticut special education regulations, including a description of when a student must be referred to a PPT, are here and here.  There are two links for the regulations because the new and old regulations have not yet been integrated into one document.