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Dear Friends,

FFLIC just added the petition: Let Kids Be Kids! Support SB 465.

It would mean a lot to us if you took a moment to add your name because:

In the wake of a society becoming increasingly vexed with school shootings, we have to look at what is really working and not working in our schools. Following the passage of the 1994 Gun-Free Schools Act in Congress, many states, including Louisiana began to enact zero-tolerance policies, which mandate suspensions and expulsions without consideration of extenuating circumstances. These were originally intended to prevent serious problems involving weapons, violence and drug and alcohol use in schools. They stemmed from growing fears about safety that then peaked after the Columbine school shooting. However, the use of zero-tolerance policies has now extended far beyond serious offenses, and often includes even minor offenses. A policy brief by the Vera Institute revealed that the long-term effects of these policies do not make schools any safer, and likely have the opposite effect.

SB 465 is a recreation of Senate Bill 67 that received bi-partisan support in 2011, was supported by 17 of the current Senators and was unfortunately vetoed by Former Governor Bobby Jindal. SB 465 provides solutions based on recommendations from a Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Task Force that was established by SCR 101 of 2010 and will increase opportunities for students and reaffirm schools’ commitment to keeping children in school by using alternatives to suspension. Alternatives such as Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports, are not only more effective discipline methods, but they also result in higher attendance rates, improved student behavior, higher academic performance, and more positive overall school climate.

“With regards to suspensions of students in grades Pre-Kindergarten through third grade, data for the 2015 -16 school year reflects that 7,895 Pre-Kindergarten through third grade students were suspended out of school and 6,113 students were suspended in school.

Notable disproportionalities were documented:

• African-American students were suspended out of school at rates 2.5 times higher than white students, and at rates 1.5 times higher than the state average out-of-school suspension rate. Similarly, African-American students were suspended in school at rates 2.2 times higher than white students, and at rates 1.5 times higher than the state average in-school suspension rate.
• Students with exceptionalities eligible under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) were suspended out of school at rates nearly 1.5 times higher than students without exceptionalities.
• Students with disabilities eligible for Section 504 Individualized Accommodation Plans(IAPs) were suspended out of school and in school at rates 2 times higher those of students without Section 504 Plans.

Willful disobedience was the number one reason for suspensions for all grades.

SB 465 provides solutions to this problem based on recommendations from a Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Task Force of 2010 and findings of the ACSBD of 2016, which would:

1. Adds restorative justice and positive behavior interventions as alternative methods to be used in lieu of suspension
2. Remove the requirement that a parent-teacher conference must take place prior to the student being readmitted after he or she has been removed for the third time, and allows for that conference to take place after the return of the student
3. Requires that districts, in consultation with key stakeholders, create guidelines for reducing suspensions for “willful disobedience” not later than April 1, 2019
4. Decreases the number of days a student can be suspended out of school for minor disciplinary infractions
5. Limits school suspensions to no more than 10 days if a student is awaiting an expulsion hearing.
6. Requires school boards to publish student discipline policies and other related information on their websites

While disruptive students should face consequences, we need to ensure that those consequences are the most beneficial and effective for our children. Currently, schools are relying on out of school suspensions, which is an “easy-way-out” approach for both the troubled student and the school official. This legislation seeks to improve the way we handle children and to foster safer and more supportive school environments that allow children to thrive.

Real change happens when everyday people like you and I come together and stand up for what we believe in. Together we can reach heaps of people and help create change around this important issue.

After you’ve signed the petition please also take a moment to share it with others. It’s super easy – all you need to do is forward this email.

Thank you!