AUSTINTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – Ohio Senator Peggy Lehner, R-District 6, is leading the cause to stop school suspensions for students younger than third grade.
In conjunction with the proposed legislation, teachers would be trained on how to de-escalate misbehavior.
In Austintown, educators are utilizing the Positive Behavior Intervention System (PBIS). It’s a program that helps students understand what is expected of them and there is a reward system for positive behavior.
Superintendent Vince Colaluca said since they implemented the program, suspensions and expulsions in kindergarten through third grade have been very rare. And even if suspension has to be used in those rare cases, it is typically an in-school restriction.
“That’s a little different than an out of school suspension. They are still in school. They still get their school work and the teacher can stop down and check on them. It is just removing them from that situation where there is an occurrence that happened, and it is just a reminder to change your behavior,” Colaluca said.
Although Austintown doesn’t have many students suspended in those grades, other districts may and putting a ban on the practice takes away local control.
“It should be a case by case basis on student discipline, and we have to really look at the severity of that student discipline,” Colaluca said.
Kahley Speziale of Canfield has two young children. She says she couldn’t imagine how schools could suspend students that young and agrees keeping them in school for behavior modification is the best approach, and that policy should be enforced in all school districts.
“I think keeping them in school and working in a more constructive manner would be in the child’s best interest,” Speziale said. “I think it is the responsibility of the parents and the school to work with that child in a different manner rather than disciplining them.”
There were more than 17,000 suspensions or expulsions in preschool through third grade for disobedient or disruptive behavior in Ohio during the 2015-2016 school year.
The numbers seem high and local education officials agree that early grade suspensions and expulsions should be rare, but most are against a state-imposed ban and prefer the policies be left up to each local school district.
If the new legislation is passed, there would be some exceptions such as if a student threatens to harm another student or staff member.