Alabama state legislator seeks to change public school disciplinary policies for elementary students

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The sponsor of a bill in the Alabama State Senate says it will bring more equity to the state justice system when dealing with kids who get in trouble.

Currently, school children, especially in elementary school, can get suspended or expelled for anything the public schools see fit.

It’s unclear if Senate Bill 203 will get that much support to reach Governor Ivey’s desk, but it is being lauded by the Southern Poverty Law Center as major progress for combatting the school-to-prison pipeline.

Here are some details of SB 203:

  • It seeks to remove the possibility of suspension or expulsion for kids in Pre-K through fifth grade if it doesn’t involve threatening physical safety.
  • It also prohibits the same for truancy and tardiness.

Chris Newlin from the National Children’s Advocacy Center in Huntsville about the bill says it might be a double-edged sword of protecting against bullying victims as well.

“I think with every situation it’s hard to say a blanketed approach can be taken. Every situation has to be looked at, but we want kids in school. But what about psychological safety and what do we know about bullying? Bullies can cause kids significant psychological trauma without ever touching them.”

For now, it remains in early stages. The bill’s author, State Senator Rodger Smitherman of Jefferson County, hasn’t said if and when the bill would be amended or stay in its current form.

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