Most of the time Students Need Services, Kindness, & Respect -Not Expulsion

High School Students With Teacher In Class Using Laptops Smiling

Today the House Education Committee heard HB23-1109, School Policies And Student Conduct.  This is a bill that promotes restorative practices, ensures reduced legal system involvement, fosters fairness in a system that otherwise considers students guilty until proven innocent, and creates accountability for unregulated and untrained expulsion hearing officers. Lauren Kinney, school counselor and Stand Advocacy Fellow prepared testimony in support of HB23-1109 that was read during the hearing by government affairs director, Bri Buentello. Below are those remarks.

“My name is Lauren Kinney and I am asking you to support HB23-1109. As a high school counselor, I am forced to witness and triage the fallout of failed exclusionary discipline on practically a daily basis. The amount of time I spend responding to frustrated teachers, admin hell-bent on maintaining the status quo of zero-tolerance policies, exhausted parents, and students that are starved for connection and struggling to cope with the trauma of a pandemic.  

Students need services, kindness, respect, and to be taught the Colorado Essential Skills (Empowered Individual, Communicator, Problem Solver, and Community Member). We have local and national data warning us for decades about the unintended consequences of even a single failed class or suspension on graduation rates and the likelihood of entering the criminal justice system. 

  • We know that one suspension in ninth grade doubles the risk of failing classes and increases the risk of dropping out by 20% (Mallett, 2016). 
  • Students that fail one or more classes during their freshman year only have a 14% likelihood of graduating on time with their peers (ASCA, 2019). 

If you explore the Education Department’s Civil Rights Data Collection website, you will see that regardless of the county in Colorado, our marginalized students are disproportionately impacted by these antiquated systems.  

Our best, most obvious solution is to focus on Restorative Justice Practices focused on addressing the harm done to individual and community stakeholders while focusing heavily on the rehabilitation of the perpetrator. There is  significant evidence that RJP can improve student misbehavior, minimize exclusionary discipline, reduce discipline gaps related to race and disabilities, and have a positive impact on the students’ and teachers’ perceptions of the safety and pro-social climate of the schools.  

Because you all have the advantage of using your fully-formed adult brains, I urge you to consider the long-term unintended consequences of our children’s behaviors that their underdeveloped brains cannot.”  

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