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Texas: Some districts still suspending K-2nd grade students despite new law

July 8, 2018, Austin (TX) Statesman: Central Texas suspensions of young students raise concerns https://www.mystatesman.com/news/state--regional-govt--politics/central-texas-suspensions-young-students-raise-concerns/3gRORwGtCV350wNBvPDgmK/ A year after Texas lawmakers prohibited schools from suspending most young students, some Central Texas districts are still using the practice, including one that reported a surprisingly high 571 suspensions in the 2017-18 school year. Starting last fall, school officials could no longer suspend students in prekindergarten through second grade except in a few narrow cases — if a student brings a gun to school, commits a violent offense or is involved with drugs or alcohol…. Advocacy groups and state Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, who wrote the anti-suspension legislation, fear that the Killeen school district is violating the law…. Stephanie Rubin with Austin-based Texans Care for Children fears that the Killeen, Hays, Round Rock and Pflugerville school districts, which she said posted “surprisingly high” suspension numbers this past school year, have harmed students with their disciplinary practices…. Cassandra Black’s son Zayden, who just completed first grade in the Killeen district, was suspended so many times this past school year that Black can barely keep count — at least five times, she said. One incident involved Zayden laughing in the principal’s face, which school officials considered insubordination, Black said. In a separate case in December, Zayden was suspended for running away from a teacher and throwing himself on the floor, an incident the teacher marked as a “minor offense,” according to a disciplinary slip Black received from the district. “He’s not a violent kid. He just can’t sit still,” Black said. Zayden takes medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. “I feel like to suspend him was the easiest way out. They didn’t want to deal with him and … it seems like teachers didn’t even give him a chance.”… “Safety is paramount, so in certain circumstances, we may have absolutely no other option but out-of-school suspension. But where we can, we’ll keep the students in school,” Savoy said…. Pflugerville school officials said they’re using restorative discipline, which seeks to help students understand how their behavior might harm someone and learn how to repair relationships. For the past six years, the Austin school district, which suspended pre-K pupils through second-graders nine times as of May, has used social-emotional learning, a curriculum that teaches children to self-regulate, verbalize their issues, learn empathy and get along better with others. Three years ago, the district started training in a specific way to help children who have experienced trauma. …