LEICESTER, Mass. — A new law aimed at tightening procedures for school suspensions and expulsions could make dealing with these disciplinary actions more difficult for Leicester school administration, said Superintendent Paul Soojian.
House Bill 4332 was sent to Gov. Deval Patrick for signing on July 26, and requires that any school district that suspends or expels a student continue to provide education services to the student during that period. Schools must also report to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education the specific reasons for all suspensions and expulsions.
Additionally, school districts are now prohibited from suspending or expelling a student for longer than 90 days.
The law, which will go into effect July 1, 2013, is meant to reduce the number of suspensions and expulsions, but the superintendent said it was too broad in its reach.
“While I agree there might have been some districts who took an extremely hardline policy and were excluding large numbers of kids, those were the districts they should have dealt with,” Soojian said. “I believe firmly that there are a lot of districts like ours where we exercise good judgment and we weren’t excluding a lot of kids, but those that needed to be were.”
Soojian said that, in the past, when students were expelled for whatever reason, whether it be for weapons or drugs, the district did not have an obligation to provide them with extensive educational services outside the school district.
“That could be anything from tutoring, online courses, and so forth,” he said. “We’re going to have to submit plans on how we’re going to educate these kids under these circumstances.”
Furthermore, Soojian said, the law will have a major financial impact.
“If you’re now trying to come up with 90 days of tutoring or educational services, that’s going to be a cost factor that’s going to have to weigh in,” he said, adding that “the reporting that we’re going to have to do every single time a student is suspended, including how many days, what were the circumstances ... is going to be a large time commitment.”