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Is it time to move away from exclusionary discipline for young students?

In our last post, we concluded an ongoing conversation concerning what Florida law has to say about serious school disciplinary actions such as suspension and expulsion.

There's a very good chance that as you were reading these entries, you envisioned scenarios involving middle school or high school students. It's important to understand, however, that these stringent measures -- referred to as exclusionary discipline -- can be imposed upon not just older students, but their younger counterparts in elementary school and even pre-school.

If you have a hard time believing it, consider that the U.S. Department of Education found that an astounding 5,000 preschoolers were suspended at least once and another 2,500 suspended more than once in 2014 alone.

Unfortunately, countless education experts have determined that exclusionary discipline at this young age can cause irreversible damage, interrupting a child's ability to learn invaluable classroom coping skills.

Indeed, the Education Department has indicated that children suspended during these formative years are ten times more likely to harbor negative attitudes about school, experience grade retention and academic failure, drop out of high school and even face incarceration as an adult.

In light of this reality, several major cities and states across the nation have adopted alternate approaches whereby exclusionary discipline is reserved for only extreme cases.

By way of example, consider the state of Connecticut, which enacted a law back in 2015 essentially banning exclusionary discipline from preschool through second grade unless it's determined at a hearing that the behavior in question was of a sexual or violent nature posing a danger to others.

In addition, rather than leaving the responsibility for funding and compliance with this mandate to the individual districts, the state itself actually provides direct support to the districts and the agencies tasked with enforcing the policy.

As for its effect, the Connecticut Department of Education indicates that the number of suspensions and expulsions of K-2 students dropped from 2,365 in the 2014-15 school year to 1,674 in the 2015-2016 school year.

While some teachers might understandably have concerns about the loss of exclusionary discipline as an option, fearing it will lessen their ability to control the classroom, experts indicate that banning suspensions for young students forces teachers and staff, who have received training, to examine the underlying causes of disruptive behavior. This, they argue, can help produce better results for all parties.

What are your thoughts? Is this an approach you think Florida should consider adopting?

If your child has been threatened with suspension or expulsion, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional as soon as possible.

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