New Law Limits Suspensions of Students Who Are In A Grade Level Below Grade Three; Lawmakers Think Positive Interventions Serve Students Better

Under most circumstances, schools may no longer suspend a student who is in a grade level below grade three thanks to House Bill 674.  Under the new Texas  Education Code Section 37.005(c), a student who is enrolled in a grade level below grade three may not be placed in out-of-school suspension unless while on school property or while attending a school-sponsored or school-related activity on or off of school property, the student engages in:  (1)  conduct that contains the elements of an offense related to weapons under Section 46.02 or 46.05, Penal Code; (2)  conduct that contains the elements of a violent offense under Section 22.01, 22.011, 22.02, or 22.021, Penal Code; or (3)  selling, giving, or delivering to another person or possessing, using, or being under the influence of any amount of marihuana or a controlled substance, as defined by Chapter 481, Health and Safety Code, or by 21 U.S.C. Section 801 et seq.; a dangerous drug, as defined by Chapter 483, Health and Safety Code; or an alcoholic beverage, as defined by Section 1.04, Alcoholic Beverage Code.

In addition, each school district and open-enrollment charter school may develop and implement a Positive Behavior Program, in consultation with campus behavior coordinators employed by the district or school and representatives of a regional education service center, that provides a disciplinary alternative for a student enrolled in a grade level below grade three who engages in conduct identified in the student code of conduct as conduct for which a student may be suspended, as long as they are not subject to Section 37.005(c).

The Positive Behavior Program must:  (1) be age-appropriate and research-based; (2)  provide models for positive behavior; (3)  promote a positive school environment; (4)  provide alternative disciplinary courses of action that do not rely on the use of in-school suspension, out-of-school suspension, or placement in a disciplinary alternative education program to manage student behavior; and (5)  provide behavior management strategies.  Those strategies may include positive behavioral intervention and support; trauma-informed practices; social and emotional learning; a referral for services, as necessary; and restorative practices.  The legislation is designed to emphasize positive interventions over out-of-school removals except for the most serious of offenses.  The law will apply with the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year.  Look out for new district policy on this and any efforts to form a Positive Behavior Program in your district.

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