Legislators Say Some Students “Too Young to Suspend”
By Austin Stewart, Special to the Atlanta Progressive News
(APN) ATLANTA — HB 135, or “Too Young to Suspend,” a bill co-sponsored by State Reps. Henry “Wayne” Howard (D-Augusta), Mable Thomas (D-Atlanta), and “Coach” Williams (D-Avondale Estates), would prohibit suspensions and expulsions of students in pre-kindergarten through the third grade.
During the 2013-2014 Georgia school year, 14,292 children in those grades were given an out-of-school suspension.
On February 22, 2016, HB 135 was given a hearing in the Georgia House Education subcommittee.
No vote was taken to bring the bill to the House Education Committee, and one is not likely by the deadline to do so on March 01, 2016, for legislative crossover.
However, the Chairman of the House Education Committee, State Rep. Brooks Coleman (R-Duluth), publicly called for further, in-depth, discussions on these issues. The bill is likely to roll-over into the 2017-2018 Legislative Session with adjustments.
For Pamela Perkins Carn, Lead Coordinator of the local child advocacy group Interfaith Children’s Movement (ICM), these developments are promising.
When children within the grades listed above are removed from classroom learning, their reading development is interrupted, and they are put at a higher risk of entering the school-to-prison pipeline, Perkins said.
The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights reported that during the 2011-2012 school year, nineteen percent of male students in Georgia who received out-of-school suspensions were African American compared to seven percent who were White.
If the Georgia Legislature were to eventually pass HB 135 or a bill similar, Georgia would be joining counties like Miami-Dade in Florida, and States like Oregon and Connecticut, which currently have similar measures in place.
Perkins Carn says that she will emphasize that when young children are shifted from schools into the criminal justice system, it is not only an ugly scar socially, but has severe economic consequences as well.
“This issue is much larger than the individuals whose learning is being impeded, this issue affects all of us,” Perkins Carn said.