School Discipline Update: Maine Bill Would Prevent Expulsion Without Reentry Plan

Last Updated: January 27, 2012

This article appeared in the January 2012 Rural Policy Matters.

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Across the country community groups and others concerned about young people have begun to push back against the growing trend for schools to use severe and punitive discipline in response to non-violent student misbehavior. Many rural community residents have identified school discipline practices, especially harsh punishments that push students out of school, as a major concern. This series highlights some of the issues in the national conversation about school discipline.

In an attempt to improve high school graduation rates and address the strong correlation between expulsion and students dropping out of school altogether, the Maine legislature is considering a bill that would prohibit schools from expelling  students without creating a plan for suspended students to return to school. 

L.D. 1503, An Act to Promote School Attendance and Increase School Achievement, has the bi-partisan support of the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee of the State Legislature, the Maine Principals Association, the Maine School Management Association (which represents superintendents), disability rights groups, and student advocates.

The bill encourages positive behavior interventions and supports rather than suspension or expulsion. It also addresses truancy and refers truant students to an intervention team that makes recommendations to improve student attendance.

Importantly, L.D. 1503 clarifies due process rights for students and parents in expulsion hearings and establishes the right to review evidence and cross-examine witnesses.

In addition, the bill would require schools to give expelled students re-entry plans or set time limits on expulsions. These plans, which would detail expected behaviors, would be developed in writing with the student, parents, and the superintendent. The plans would be reviewed for progress at three and six month intervals. Districts would be required to report on the numbers of students expelled and readmitted after expulsion.

The measure is expected to pass the full legislature later this year. 

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