Senate considers updates to student discipline statutes
Friday, May 10, 2013
On May 9, the Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee held a public hearing on House Bill 2192. The bill as originally proposed by the juvenile rights organization Youth, Rights and Justice made significant changes to statutes related to suspension and expulsion of students.
The current version of the bill is a consensus product of a legislative workgroup that included the original proponents and education organizations, such as OSBA, the Confederation of School Administrators (COSA) and the Oregon Education Association (OEA); the bill previously passed the House in April on a 60-0 vote.
The A-Engrossed version of the bill makes several key changes to Oregon’s student discipline statutes, including:
Elimination of state statutory language mandating expulsion (zero tolerance) for weapons (non-firearms) infractions. This change will give school districts and administrators more discretion and latitude to discipline students when they bring small pocket knives or toys to school, for example. The bill does not change the federal law that requires mandatory expulsion for violating the Gun Free Schools Act.
Student expulsions are limited to conduct that poses a threat to the health or safety of students or staff, when required by law, or when previous discipline efforts or interventions have been unsuccessful. School districts still retain the authority to discipline or suspend students at their discretion. None of the timelines (10 days for suspension or one year for expulsion) are changed.
The bill clarifies that school discipline policies must be implemented without bias against students from protected classes. District discipline policies also must set clear expectations for behavior, use research-based interventions (such as Response to Intervention or Positive Behavior Supports) when practicable, and take into account the age and discipline history of the student when considering discipline for misconduct or misbehavior.
Proponents of these changes have presented compelling data and research showing that punitive, zero tolerance discipline policies often exacerbate behavior issues for many students. Students who are suspended or expelled are also at much greater risk of dropping out of school.
OSBA testified in support of the amended bill and views it as an appropriate way to modernize Oregon’s discipline statutes while maintaining local control, improving school and staff discretion when disciplining students and ensuring the health and safety of all students.
The committee is expected to pass the bill to the full Senate in the next week. Contact Morgan Allen, OSBA legislative specialist, if you have additional questions.