By: Krystle Crossman
Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey has developed a new bill that aims to lower the suspension rates in schools, especially among minority students, and keep kids from dropping out or ending up in jail. The bill is called the Keep Kids in School Act. Casey states that the 3.5 million kids that are suspended from school every year could fill the Pittsburgh Steelers stadium 54 times. Minority students make up a good portion of this number as they are often given much harsher punishments.
What the Keep Kids in School Act is looking to do is to educate school staff on the different approaches that they can take to infractions in the schools instead of handing out punishments that do not really fit the act that the student has committed. For example, some students are suspended for a first time dress code infraction. This goes on their permanent record and can frustrate them to a point where they continue to do it out of spite. The more a student is suspended the more likely they are to drop out of school. Drop out rates for minority students are especially high as they are more likely to receive strict punishments even if they are committing the same infraction as a student of another race or socioeconomic class who doesn’t get punished.
The preschool to prison “pipeline” is something that is avoidable. Students who are given punishments that they shouldn’t be getting end up being labeled as bad or troubled kids even if they aren’t. This can lead them down a path towards criminal behavior. Casey wants to try and minimize the number of children that travel down this virtual pipeline. The bill that he has created wants to educate the schools on the different types of punishments that are too severe for certain cases. It will also teach the administrators how to deal with someone who is causing trouble effectively instead of immediately sending them to the principal’s officer. There are some schools that will even call the police on students for minor infractions. In Texas there were certain schools that participated in a program that would have a police officer write the student a ticket and charge them with a Class C misdemeanor for misbehaving in school. This initiative has since dwindled but it shows the seriousness of the punishments that students are given.