The ACLU of Rhode Island commended the General Assembly for passing, and Governor Raimondo for today signing, important legislation limiting the use of out-of-school suspensions in Rhode Island’s schools.

In an effort to address the so-called school-to-prison pipeline, the legislation, sponsored by Representative Grace Diaz and Senator Juan Pichardo, is designed to prevent the use of out-of-school suspensions for minor misbehavior, while allowing youth who pose a physical risk or serious disruption to students to be suspended.  In recent years, the ACLU of Rhode Island has issued a series of reports analyzing school suspension data, and found that among the most common grounds for suspending children as young as first grade from school are such minor infractions as “disorderly conduct” or “disrespect.”  In the 2013-2014 school year, nearly 1,400 elementary school students were suspended; 147 of them were in the first grade. 

Students who are suspended from school are up to ten times as likely as other students to drop out of school or repeat a grade. Paradoxically, suspensions are associated with higher rates of misbehavior after suspension, and lower academic achievement. Perhaps most troubling, suspended students are significantly more likely to become involved with the juvenile justice system.

While over-suspensions affect all Rhode Island students, the ACLU reports found that they particularly impact those students already at a disadvantage – minority youth, low-income youth, and youth with disabilities.

Policy Associate Hillary Davis noted, “This legislation is a far-overdue step toward ensuring that Rhode Island’s students are given the opportunity to learn in their classrooms, and not to be pushed out of them for minor misbehavior. We commend the General Assembly for their work, and look forward to seeing the positive impact this will have on students in the very near future.”