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House Co-Sponsorship Memoranda

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House of Representatives
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: September 22, 2015 11:49 AM
From: Representative Warren Kampf
To: All House members
Subject: Resolution Regarding Zero Tolerance Policies

A violence-free learning environment is critical to student success. However, it is important that student discipline policies be tailored to reflect the seriousness and the circumstances of each offense. For this reason, I will be introducing a resolution directing the Joint State Government Commission (JSGC) to conduct a comprehensive study of school discipline policies, laws and regulations and make appropriate recommendations to the General Assembly.

The Regulations of the State Board of Education (State Board) require school boards to adopt codes of student conduct that include student discipline policies. Further, the Public School Code of 1949 (School Code) required the State Board to adopt regulations setting forth a model memorandum of understanding (MOU) between school entities and local police departments setting forth protocols for mandatory and discretionary notification of police when certain offenses occur on school property. The School Code also requires each school entity to enter into such an MOU with local police. In developing their student discipline policies, some school entities have adopted “zero-tolerance” policies that mandate specific disciplinary responses to certain student misconduct, regardless of the severity of or the circumstances surrounding the incident. Sometimes such policies require that police be notified of the incident immediately.

The resolution I will introduce is intended to help ensure that the Commonwealth’s school safety laws and regulations support a safe school environment while also encouraging school entities to appropriately tailor their disciplinary responses to the severity and circumstances of student misconduct. My resolution will do so by requiring the JSGC, in consultation with an advisory committee comprised of representatives of the education, law enforcement and judicial communities, to conduct a comprehensive study of school discipline policies, laws and regulations across Pennsylvania and nationwide. The JSGC will be directed to pay specific attention to zero-tolerance policies and their effects on students, including students with disabilities and students who are under 12 years of age. The JSGC’s study will also examine the types of MOUs in place between school entities and police departments, including those that call for immediate notification of the police in more circumstances than is required under the School Code, as well as a study of school discipline approaches for both elementary and secondary school students that provide alternatives to suspension, expulsion and referral to law enforcement. Finally, the JSGC will be required to offer its recommendations for new legislation, regulations and policies related to school discipline. The JSGC will have six months to complete its report.

I am concerned that too many children who engage in non-violent, first-time infractions may be entering the criminal justice system due to unnecessary zero-tolerance policies; some have referred to this as the “school-to-incarceration pipeline.” Directing the JSGC to closely examine these policies and related laws and regulations is an important step in determining whether our public policy in this area works to the benefit of all our school children and their families.

Please join me in co-sponsoring this resolution.

Introduced as HR540