A new bill in Maryland's legislature is moving to limit school suspensions and expulsions for students in 2nd grade and under.
State Del. Brooke Lierman (D-Baltimore) is a co-sponsor of the bill, along with Sen. William C Smith Jr. (D-Montgomery County).
“Many people recognize that this is just a common-sense measure," said Lierman. "We need to be keeping kids in school, so that we can teach them, and use positive supports to help modify and change behavior problems, rather than sending them home."
Efforts to reduce the number of suspensions and expulsions among the state's youngest learners haven't been working.
In the 2015-2016 school year, 2,363 of the state’s youngest learners were suspended or expelled. That’s an increase of 17.5 percent.
ACLU Education Advocate Kimberly Humphrey said African-American students represent a disproportionate number of the kids being expelled or suspended.
“The stakes are high, we have to show that we are committed to educating everyone," Humphrey said, "you know this issue is also related to academic lags.”
Alyssa Fieo, with Disability Rights Maryland, said kids with disabilities are also more likely to receive an out of school punishment.
“We have families who have autism, ADHD, an undiagnosed learning disability," Fieo said, "and when they engage in behavior that's problematic or challenging, the first impulse often is to suspend the child, remove the child, give the teacher a break.”
Lesa Miller, who has a doctorate in nursing, said she hopes the bill is passed so that other parents won’t have to go through the ordeal her family experience.
Her son, who has autism, received three suspensions and was also sent home illegally. Miller says her son was sent home for running away and having a temper tantrums, behaviors that are due to his autism.
Miller changed schools and fought to have her preschooler’s record expunged.
“I'm just glad he's out of there, but you know, this doesn't stop with Jonathan,” she said.
The bill would make exceptions for criminal activity or bringing a firearm to school. The senate version of the bill will be reviewed on March 8.
To read the language of this bill, click here.