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House of Representatives
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: April 3, 2017 08:32 AM
From: Representative Warren Kampf
To: All House members
Subject: School Discipline—Modifying Zero Tolerance
Please consider co-sponsoring legislation I am about to introduce which improves School Code law related to expulsions and suspensions. Last year, the Joint State Government Commission conducted an in-depth study of school discipline and what is known as “zero tolerance” policies. This was done pursuant to our unanimous HR 540 of 2015, which I sponsored. The Commission issued a report of its work and several findings. The Commission also drafted legislation to mirror its recommendations. My bill will be almost identical to that draft legislation.

All the school stakeholders had a seat at the table for the Commission research and the final report. This included members from the school communities, the disability and children’s rights communities, and also law enforcement itself.

Excerpts from the Report:

Recommendation 2: Efforts should be made to substantially lower Pennsylvania’s expulsion and out-of-school suspension rates, which are in the top 25% and 39% of the states and the District of Columbia respectively.

Recommendation 4: …[I]t is recommended that the Public School Code mirror the federal Gun-Free Schools Act in defining expulsion for weapons possession.

One element of the bill will narrow language for automatic expulsion in order to mirror federal law. Federal law, created from the days of Columbine in the 1990s, mandated expulsion for firearms only. This bill would narrow the definition of mandatory expulsion in state law to firearms. Currently the definition is quite broad, and mandates expulsion for possessing any weapon, including a vaguely described “cutting tool.” While expulsion could still occur for bringing a “cutting tool” to the school under the bill, it would not be mandated in all cases. This is to avoid some of the expulsions which occur because of an inadvertent act.

The bill would also limit the power of schools to expel automatically, without trying other measures first, children ten (10) years old or younger unless the child committed an act of violence, brought a firearm to school or engaged in sexual misconduct. The reason for this change is to try to limit significantly expulsion of children of tender years.

Additionally, the bill would require PDE to review and monitor statistical data about expulsion, suspension and referral to alternative education. The bill also delineates additional training school police officers could undergo that deals directly with de-escalation, disabilities, and conditions school grants which are already being awarded to a greater degree on this type of training.

Introduced as HB1308