We’ve spoken at length about the harms that school suspensions and expulsions have on students. We know that students who have been suspended or expelled are ten times more likely to drop out of high school than those who have not. And through our Demand to Learn campaign, we have learned over the past years that in Arizona, minority students and students with disabilities are punished at disproportionately high rates.
As students begin to head back to the physical classroom, we must do all we can to keep students in school. This past year has undoubtedly been very difficult for families – and due to COVID-19, many students began learning from home where some had limited access to wi-fi and limited peer interactions. Once students return to their brick-and-mortar, educators and administrators must do everything possible to keep them there.
That is why we are supporting HB 2123 (formerly HB 2125). This bill would restrict public school districts and charter schools from suspending or expelling students younger than seven years old. School districts and charter schools would only be allowed to suspend or expel students under the age of seven only in very limited circumstances.
Additionally, before suspending or expelling a student below the fifth grade, HB 2123 would direct schools to consider and employ alternative behavioral and disciplinary interventions in consultation with the student’s parent or guardian. This is an important part of the bill because we know that harsh disciplinary practices like suspensions and expulsions are ineffective in addressing children's behavior, and are harmful to the student, their family, the school district, and the community as a whole.
HB 2123 is a huge, positive step for Arizona – currently, students younger than seven can be suspended indefinitely or expelled from school for any reason. We’ve heard from parents like Lindsay – a mom to a third grader with ADHD, who began receiving notice that her child was being suspended since he was in kindergarten. Or parents like Jackie, whose second grader was suspended three separate times within a two-month span.
Not only do parents want to see this bill passed, but there are several local groups who support this bill that who understand the importance of HB 2123.
HB 2123 made it out of the Senate Education committee this week on a 7-1 vote. It now heads to the Senate floor. This bill is a great first step towards a more equitable and just school system for all Arizona system. We urge you to contact your legislators and tell them to vote YES on HB 2123.