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JCPS officially bans most suspensions for youngest students

Published: May. 26, 2021 at 9:16 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Kentucky’s largest school district is banning most suspensions for students in preschool through third grade, a decision made official with a vote during a school board meeting on Tuesday night.

Jefferson County Public School officials hope the decision will help reduce disproportionate suspensions for students of color and ones with special needs.

Jerron Jones, a behavioral therapist at JCPS studying to get his Ph.D., told WAVE 3 News “it’s about time” the decision passed. Jones works primarily with students who have autism and sees the negative impacts of suspension firsthand.

“Children in ECE are challenged with processing situations, can’t conceptualize perceptions, so when they’re suspended and come in the classroom four or five days later, they have no concept of why they’re suspended,” Jones said. “When they come back to class, the same behaviors may occur because no one is identifying the why. What are you coming home from before you get to school? What are you going home to from school? So, I think as an educational community it’s really important to find some of the root causes of these issues.”

ECE learners and students with IEPs make up around 13% of the JCPS population, Jones said. However, they account for 40% of the district’s suspensions.

However, the school board’s decision did receive some opposition from member Linda Duncan.

“What are we telling principals to do about situations where kids are biting, hitting, pinching, slapping, pushing other kids?” Duncan questioned. “What are we telling them that they’re going to do?”

Executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates Dr. Terry Brooks told WAVE 3 News there are plenty of alternative punishments the district can use in lieu of suspensions.

“The one consequence that is neither smart nor effective is kicking a five-year-old out of school for three days,” Brooks said. “It’s not a matter of getting tough around discipline, it’s a matter of being smart about discipline, and this is a smart decision.”

In certain circumstances, such as when younger students have broken the law and the school has completed a threat assessment, principals may request that students be suspended. The assessments must be conducted in order to ensure students’ safety.

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