Op-Ed: Student-created bill supports suspended peers’ learning — Peter Trombley

Bill H.834, or “An act relating to school suspensions” is currently up for action in the Vermont House of Representatives. This piece of legislation would require schools to provide lesson plans to all students during their suspensions.

During the 2011-2012 school year (the latest year I could find reliable data), Vermont public schools suspended or expelled 3,982 students out of school for at least one day, and suspended 3,861 students in school for at least one day.

That’s five percent of our student population.

Due to the fact that many students are suspended for more than one day at a time, or multiple times throughout the school year, it is estimated that Vermont students lost at least 8,000 days of classes that year.

It is worth noting that this data is incomplete, given that some schools reported no suspensions and others didn’t report any data, it can be safely assumed that numbers are higher than reported.

Limited data exists in regards to the effects of school suspensions on students in Vermont; although, we do have data from other states. A study conducted by the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University in conjunction with the 2010 NC Family Impact Seminar concluded that there were significant negative impacts associated with suspensions including: higher rates of future antisocial behavior, involvement with the juvenile justice system, higher rates of hostile and negative student relations, and an increase in future suspension rates. This shows that suspensions seem to perpetuate the very behavior they are designed to curtail.

The negative impacts of school suspensions are compounded by the fact that they disproportionately affect certain demographics. Those demographics being students with IEPs (education plans designed to assist disabled students), African-American students, and Native American students. My findings are as follows:

Students with IEPs make of 13.7 percent of the student body as of 2012, yet they make up 29.7 percent of in-school suspensions, and 31.9 percent of out-of-school suspensions.

In Chittenden County as of 2012, African-American students make up 15.4 percent of in-school suspensions and 13.1 percent of out-of-school suspensions, but they only account for 5.7 percent of students.

In Franklin County as of 2012, Native Americans make up 19.7 percent of in-school suspensions and 29.9 percent of out-of-school suspensions although they are only 12.4 percent of the student population.

The legislation I have proposed would ensure that students given a suspension are not denied the chance to keep up with their studies, ensuring a smooth transition between discipline and schooling. Please contact your legislators to show support for H.834

Peter Trombley is a senior at Champlain Valley Union High School. Peter Trombley, of Shelburne, is a senior at Champlain Valley Union High School. He proposed H.834 which Rep. Kate Webb, D-Shelburne, sponsored. The bill is in the House Education Committee and may be incorporated into pending legislation this session.

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