Among the many legislative changes from the most recent session of the General Assembly, one involves modifications to the rules for student suspensions and expulsions. Specifically, Public Act 15-96 restricts the ability of school districts to expel or give out-of-school suspensions to their youngest students.

Students in preschool through grade two now may only receive an out-of-school suspension if, after an informal hearing, the school administration determines that an out-of-school suspension is appropriate based on evidence that the student’s conduct on school grounds is of “a violent or sexual nature that endangers persons.” This is a significantly more restrictive standard than for students grades three through twelve.

Students in grades kindergarten to grade two may only be expelled from school for mandatory expellable offenses, which are [1] possession of a firearm or deadly weapon, dangerous instrument or martial arts weapon on school grounds; [2] possession of a firearm off school grounds, or use of a firearm, deadly weapon or deadly instrument in the commission of a crime; or [3] sale or distribution of a controlled substance. They no longer may be expelled from school for non-mandatory offenses.

As for preschool students, a preschool program can only expel a student when a student was in possession of a firearm on or off school grounds or at an event sponsored by the preschool program (hopefully a rare occurrence). Although one suspects that this change in the law will not be a significant one for the vast majority of school districts, it does illustrate the increased focus on school disciplinary practices by the legislature and advocacy groups, particularly for the youngest students.