Out-of-school suspensions for students through third grade could be limited in Missouri. State Rep. Ian Mackey, D-St. Louis, is sponsoring a bill that would put a stop to these.

“Students who are engaging in violence or physical behavior that’s a cause of violence, those are students that certainly are still going to be suspended and should be,” he said. “However, we heard story after story after story both in email and parents who showed up to testify at the committee hearing, there has also been multiple news reports of parents whose young students especially are suspended for plenty of non-violent acts.”

He said his bill covers out-of-school suspensions only.

“Suspensions don’t end the problem,” Mackey said. “They end the problem in an extremely temporary manner right there on the spot in the moment but they don’t help that child understand what led, or the teacher for that matter, or anybody, understand what led to that behavior and how it can be prevented in the future.”

A second House committee could soon vote on Mackey’s proposal.

“The city of St. Louis, for example in 2016, outlawed school suspensions for students in these grades. By the way, they’re not looking at revisiting that policy. That policy has worked in that large district,” said Mackey. “Incidentally, they have also seen a decrease in school suspensions and we see this in data around the country.”

According to Mackey, Missouri suspends Black children at a higher rate than their white peers, as well as children with disabilities.

“It’s over 100 days on average more that Black students are suspended than white students. It is an astronomical disparity,” said Mackey. “That’s not necessarily to go placing blame on people for engaging in some sort of intentional racist behavior and insisting that Black kids be suspended more. It’s just simply a result of the inherent biases that exist, the inherent misunderstandings that exist, and it’s something we have to absolutely address.

He said many school discipline bills are aimed at addressing the school to prison pipeline.

“We know that Black Missourians, just like Black Americans, face a much higher rate of incarceration than their white peers,” he said.

Adam Hogan, a teacher, opposes the bill because he says not allowing schools to keep students safe is “ridiculous.”

With the legislative session winding down in mid-May, getting the bill across the finish line at this point in the game might entail adding the language to another education bill further along in the lawmaking process.

To view House Bill 159, click here.

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