Bill seeks to halt school-to-prison pipeline fueled by expulsions and suspensions

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Assembly Member Selena Torres presented Assembly Bill 194 before the Senate Education Committee Monday afternoon.

The bill seeks to shut down the school-to-prison pipeline by revising the suspension and expulsion provisions in Nevada schools. It is supported by the Washoe County and Clark County Public Advocate Offices.

“The Clark County Public Defender’s Office and the Washoe County Public Defender’s Office urge your support for AB 194. This bill will provide crucial due process safeguards to help break the school-to-prison pipeline.” Clark County John Piro and Kendra Bertschy wrote to lawmakers in a March 23 letter.

The Justice Policy Institute, a nonprofit think tank, identifies the school-prison pipeline as a growing school discipline that can lead to more contact with the criminal justice system. School suspensions and expulsions, experts say, not only reduce learning time in the classroom, but weaken a student’s bond with the school community and increase the chances of a student committing a crime.

The bill was passed by the assembly on April 29 with a 36 to 6 vote. Lawmakers who voted against the measure were all Republicans.

AB 194 would require public school districts, charter schools and college schools for deeply gifted students to allow students 18 years of age or older or guardians of underage students to appeal suspensions or expulsions. It would also require them to inform students or guardians of their right to appeal and require them to post an explanation of the appeal process online, as well as exempt such appeals from the open meeting requirements set out in the revised Bylaws. from Nevada.

The bill would also prohibit school officials from imposing a harsher sanction on students who have not appealed for their suspension or expulsion.

“I just want to stress how important it is that every student has access to due process.”

Jonathan Norman, team leader of the educational outreach program with the Southern Nevada Legal Aid Center, who joined Torres in bringing forward the bill, said: “We have seen some cases. which could lead to a more severe sanction. [and] scared families of their right to appeal, even though we thought there was merit in appealing.

Additional language in the bill clarifies that students who are expelled or suspended or who are being considered for suspension or expulsion would still “have the right to receive an education in the least restrictive environment possible.”

Norman, who said he worked primarily with foster children in Clark County, said this was an important aspect of AB 194 during a question-and-answer session with the committee .

“We would have kids who weren’t in school for weeks at a time while the disciplinary process was going on, and they were falling behind – and I think this bill allows that, so they have to be in that environment.” least restrictive while the process is in progress. organize themselves so that they do not fall behind in education.

Norman added that this type of absence from school also affects the ability of children to be placed in foster care, as foster parents often cannot have a child unattended at home all day while they are away. ‘they work.

Finally, AB 194 would require school officials to include in their usual annual accountability reports by which they report on student discipline information regarding plans “for restorative justice and the progressive discipline process used by” schools, in addition to how schools train staff in restorative justice and progressive discipline.

According to the specialist magazine of online teachers WeAreTeachers.com, “Restorative justice is a theory of justice that emphasizes mediation and agreement rather than punishment. Offenders must accept responsibility for the harm and provide redress to the victims. Restorative justice, the magazine notes, can improve student outcomes and can prevent children from ending up between schools and prisons.

Torres told committee members that the bill was born out of watching Nevada students and their families struggle to appeal suspensions and expulsions. By the summer of 2020, it became clear that the appeal process for Nevada school districts varied widely.

WCSD School Police Chief Jason Trevino plays tetherball with a student. Image: Carla O’Day

“It seems unfair,” Torres said, noting that students of color are much more likely to be suspended or expelled than their white counterparts.

Torres said that in several school districts in Nevada there was no due process for students facing expulsion or suspension and that his bill would address that issue.

Senator Marilyn Dondero Loop asked Torres how school districts would be required to develop plans to implement restorative justice disciplinary practices and whether there would be consistency across districts. Torres said the Nevada Department of Education (NDE) issues guidelines on how these practices are developed.

Christy McGill, director of the EMN’s Office of Safe and Respectful Learning Environments, said the ministry moved last year to restorative justice plans from progressive discipline plans and that 80% of districts school and charter school authorities have made this transition as well.

AB 194 has received support from the Clark County Education Association, the Washoe County School District, the Nevada Attorneys for Criminal Justice, and the Children’s Advocacy Alliance. No organization or individual opposed the bill during legislative hearings.

In closing the hearing on AB 194, Torres said, “I just want to stress how important it is that every student has due process access and unfortunately here in Nevada that is not the educational environment. that we created. I believe this legislation ensures that due process is guaranteed in law and regulations – and ensures that our students have access to the least restrictive educational environment possible.

This Is Reno has contacted the Washoe County School District to inquire about its suspension and expulsion practices. These are contained in the 61 pages of the district Student behavior – Administrative procedures manual and include restorative justice practices.

Regarding suspensions, the district policy is:

“If a student commits what is known as a ‘Big 3’ offense (which includes violations of statutory weapons, distribution (sale) of controlled substances, or battery setting on an injured district employee), the administration The school would put the student on emergency suspension and schedule a behavior hearing with the district hearing officer. … Under Nevada law, students in possession of dangerous weapons will be removed from school, likely placed in an interim alternative education setting (IAES)… for one year. However, for students involved in the indictment of an injured district employee and students involved in the distribution of controlled substances, for a first offense, the school should create a support plan employing restorative practices, and l he child must be sent back to his school.

District policy states that it strives not to expel students, “If a student has committed an offense that would justify expulsion, the district will generally work to identify education options or an alternative educational framework for the student. student, rather than permanently removing a student from an educational setting without educational options. “

This Is Reno also asked for the number of suspensions and deportations over the past few years, but WCSD was unable to provide this information until this article was published. The history can be updated when this information is provided.



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