Before proposing legislation, I believe it is vitally important to understand the mechanics and policy impact of the legislation. I consider the following questions, which I call the 5 way test, when I propose legislation:
- What is the impact to those who have to implement the policy?
- Have those who understand the practical application been involved in the process?
- Is the concept reasonable and have common sense?
- Is this concept designed for the whole or for a special interest?
- Are there unintended (hidden) consequences if the concept is implemented?
Last week, SB 553 passed on the House floor with a 40-19 vote, which included two NO votes from democrats. One of the two democrats in opposition is a retired principal who I have a great deal of respect for.
This measure imposes limits on instances when students from kindergarten to fifth grade may be subjected to out-of-school suspension from school. The bill appears to be a simple bill, so why the story? SB 553 addresses only a surface response, it does not tackle the systemic problem we are facing throughout America; the family.
During the floor debate, the carrier of the bill said "We must look at polices that require school districts to take steps to prevent what led to the suspension...this bill responds to something that is known as the school-to-prison pipeline. That refers to instances in which students often the most underserved and vulnerable; like disabled youth, youth of color and youth of lower social economic status are disproportionately punished for less serious infractions and then pushed out of schools..."
Pew estimates that 67 percent of black dads who don't live with their kids see them at least once a month, compared to 59 percent of white dads and just 32 percent of Hispanic dads. In these instances, it appears the majority of responsibility in training up the child falls to either the mother or the teachers. If there is no reinforcement of positive values at home, then who will be responsible for giving direction to children? Unfortunately, our society relies more and more on the schools.
Fixing the education system is important and family involvement is critical. Without the tool of suspension, the avenue to connect with families is greatly reduced, resulting in a lack of improvement in the student's behavior.
Suspending a child should be taken seriously, especially those between the ages of five to 12 years old. State Representative Mark Johnson (R-Hood River) shared as a member of a school board, he had never seen a child as young as this bill proposes being suspended from school.
A local school administrator stated, "This is a bad bill. We have dangerous kids who hurt staff that are very young." Another administer shared, "If you limit the ability to suspend those disruptive students, they will continue to keep others from learning. That violates the law."
Clearly, the intent of the bill is a good idea, but without the resources, i.e., behavioral specialists and counselors to address the issues, teachers are left to deal with the problem. Let teachers teach.
This bill clearly does not pass the 5-way test.