Proposed Bills Aim to Curb School Suspensions in New Hampshire
Several proposed bills in the New Hampshire legislature would create state-wide guidelines for school discipline and make it harder for schools to suspend students.
Currently, New Hampshire has no specific limit on the length of long-term suspensions, which means suspensions for any infraction could last for weeks, months and sometimes, the rest of the academic year.
Federal data shows that the students most likely to get these suspensions are students of color and students with disabilities.
Under a bill sponsored by Hanover Senator Martha Hennessy (D) and another sponsored by Merrimack Representative Mel Myler (D), schools would only be allowed to give long term suspensions to students found guilty of theft, violence, or destruction.
And even then, there would be a clear time limit on that suspension.
Concerns over school safety could make these bills controversial, since schools sometimes suspend students after they've made threats of violence.
Michelle Wangerin, Youth Law Project Director with New Hampshire Legal Assistance, says kicking students out is rarely the answer.
"Excluding a child from school doesn't help fix the problem," she says. "Once they come back, the problem is still there."
Wangerin helped craft the bills with other advocacy organizations.
In addition to limiting long term suspension, the bills would require schools to consider mitigating factors before expulsion and to implement positive behavior intervention plans for students suspended for more than 10 days in a school year.