AUSTIN (KXAN) — A report released Wednesday by Texans Care for Children found that some Texas school districts are still suspending their youngest students, even after lawmakers in 2017 prohibited out-of-school suspensions for kids before they reach third grade.
Texas lawmakers passed House Bill 674 in 2017 after recognizing that suspending very young children, between pre-K and second grade, disrupts learning and fails to improve behavior. The law made it illegal to suspend a student who hasn’t reached third grade, except in very specific circumstances, like if the student brought a gun or drugs to school.
While the bill helped reduce the number of out-of-school suspensions by nearly 80% in its first year, some districts still sent young kids home.
- READ MORE: California passed a law to make it more difficult to expel young students. Here’s how it’s training teachers to help support students
In the 2017-2018 school year, Texans Care for Children found that districts across the state collectively suspended over 7,000 students in pre-K through second grade with 566 of those issued to pre-K students.
“The number of in-school suspensions in these early grades remained essentially flat, decreasing just three percent,” the group wrote in a release. “Despite state law virtually prohibiting out-of-school suspensions in these grades, districts issued over 7,000 suspensions.”
The study also found that districts continued to disproportionately suspend students in foster care, students in special education, black students and boys.
“The greatest disparity was among students in foster care, whom Texas school districts suspend more than three times as often as other students in pre-K through second grade,” the group wrote. “Instead of suspending little kids who already have been through abuse, neglect, and trauma, we need to provide these kids extra support and stability.”
Killeen ISD and Jasper ISD
Researchers wrote that the pre-K suspensions at Jasper ISD and Killeen ISD were “almost literally off the charts.”
Killeen ISD, near Temple, has just 1.6% of the state’s pre-K students but the district issued 44% of the state’s in-school suspensions and more than half of out-of-school suspensions for pre-K kids.
Of the 566 pre-K students suspended, Killeen ISD was responsible for suspending 303 pre-K children.
In Jasper ISD, north of Beaumont, the pre-K in-school suspension rate was 82 times higher than the state average. They issued 92 suspensions to 22 students, the group found.
Austin ISD voted in 2017 to ban out-of-school suspensions and the district was not mentioned in the report for its in-school suspension numbers.