PA 15-96—sSB 1053

Education Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING OUT-OF-SCHOOL SUSPENSIONS AND EXPULSIONS FOR STUDENTS IN PRESCHOOL AND GRADES KINDERGARTEN TO TWO

SUMMARY: This act, with certain exceptions, prohibits local or regional boards of education from imposing out-of-school suspensions or expulsions on students in grades preschool through two. The exceptions are:

1. out-of-school suspensions by boards of education for preschool through grade two students whose conduct is of a violent or sexual nature that endangers others (but a conflicting provision prohibits all out-of-school suspensions for preschool students);

2. expulsions by boards of education for kindergarten through grade two students who possess firearms or certain other weapons or sell or distribute controlled substances; and

3. expulsions by boards of education, state or local charter schools, or interdistrict magnet schools (i. e. , “preschool program providers”) for preschool students who possess a firearm on or off school grounds or at school-sponsored activities at preschool programs, in accordance with federal law.

The act prohibits preschools run by charter schools or interdistrict magnet schools from imposing out-of-school suspensions. It also establishes expulsion hearing procedures for students of all preschool program providers.

Additionally, the act requires school-based primary mental health programs administered by boards of education to include a component for systematic early detection and screening to identify children experiencing behavioral or disciplinary problems. (Prior law required the identification of children experiencing early school adjustment problems only. ) It also requires the (1) programs to include services to address those problems and (2) education commissioner to consider, as an additional factor when awarding school-based primary mental health program grants to boards of education, the number of children enrolled in grades kindergarten to two who experience behavioral, disciplinary, or early school adjustment problems.

The act also makes conforming and technical changes.

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2015

OUT-OF-SCHOOL SUSPENSIONS

Preschool through Grade Two Programs Administered by Boards of Education

The act prohibits boards of education from authorizing out-of-school suspensions for students in preschool through grade two unless the school administration determines during a disciplinary hearing that there is evidence of conduct on school grounds of a violent or sexual nature that endangers others. Under prior law, kindergarten through grade two students could receive an out-of-school suspension for the same reasons as students in grades three through 12 (e. g. , posing a danger to persons or property, disrupting the educational process).

The act also simultaneously prohibits boards of education from authorizing any suspensions for preschool students other than in-school suspensions, which conflicts with the above exception permitting out-of-school suspensions for violent or sexual conduct.

Preschool Programs Administered by Charter or Magnet Schools

The act prohibits state or local charter schools or interdistrict magnet schools from authorizing out-of-school suspensions for preschool students for any reason, but it allows them to authorize in-school suspensions for such students.

EXPULSIONS

Kindergarten through Grade Two Students

The act prohibits boards of education from expelling a student enrolled in kindergarten through grade two, unless the student:

1. possessed a firearm, deadly weapon, dangerous instrument, or martial arts weapon on school grounds or at a school-sponsored activity;

2. possessed such a firearm, instrument, or weapon in the commission of a crime off school grounds; or

3. on or off school grounds, offered a controlled substance for sale or distribution whose manufacture, distribution, sale, prescription, dispensing, transporting, or possessing with intent to sell, dispense, offer, or administer is subject to criminal penalties under state law.

As under existing law, such students are subject to mandatory expulsion for one calendar year, which the board may reduce on a case-by-case basis for specified reasons. Under prior law, kindergarten through grade two students could be expelled for the same reasons as students in grades three through 12 (e. g. , dangerous or seriously disruptive conduct).

Preschool Students

The act conforms state law to federal law by requiring boards of education to expel preschool students for one calendar year when the school administration determines during a disciplinary hearing that there is reason to believe that the student possessed a firearm on or off school grounds or at a school-sponsored event (see BACKGROUND). Existing law requires this for students in grades kindergarten through 12. The act also subjects preschool students enrolled in a state or local charter school or interdistrict magnet school preschool program to the same mandatory expulsion requirement. It otherwise prohibits preschool providers from expelling preschool students.

The act allows preschool program providers to modify this mandatory expulsion period on a case-by-case basis. It does not establish criteria for modifying the one-year period.

Preschool Expulsion Hearing Procedures

The act requires preschool expulsion hearings for firearm possession to be conducted by the local or regional board of education, state or local charter school, or interdistrict magnet school providing the preschool program, except that it also allows hearings to be conducted by:

1. the local or regional board of education if a regional education service center or a state or local charter school is the program provider, and such providers have an agreement with the board to do so, or

2. an impartial hearing board established by the preschool program provider.

The act generally conforms preschool expulsion hearing requirements to the requirements in existing law for kindergarten through grade 12 expulsion hearings. This includes:

1. conducting the hearing in accordance with the Uniform Administrative Procedure Act (UAPA);

2. notifying the student's parent or guardian of the hearing, including providing information about local free or low-cost legal services; and

3. prohibiting preschool students from being expelled without a UAPA hearing, except in an emergency. (If an emergency exists, the hearing must be held as soon after the expulsion as possible. )

The act prohibits preschool program provider employees from serving as members of impartial expulsion hearing boards but appears to permit local or regional board of education members to serve on impartial preschool hearing expulsion boards. Under existing law for kindergarten through grade 12 students, board of education members cannot be members of an impartial expulsion hearing board.

BACKGROUND

Firearms Requiring Expulsion

The federal Gun Free Schools Act describes the following weapons as firearms that require one calendar year of expulsion:

1. any weapon that can expel a projectile by the action of an explosive;

2. a firearm frame, receiver, muffler, or silencer; or

3. any destructive device, which includes explosives, incendiaries, and poison gases (but not rifles intended for sporting, recreational, or cultural purposes or knives) (18 USC 921(a)(3)-(4)).

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