With the close of the 2008 legislative session, HB 5826 An Act Concerning School Learning Environment has passed. The bill postpones from July 1, 2008 to July 1, 2009 the effective implementation date for PA 07-66 which generally prohibits out of school suspensions and extends from five to ten days, the maximum length of in-school suspensions. The passage of PA 07-66 raised a number of concerns for school boards and school administrators regarding the pragmatics of implementing the new law. Those concerns included questions over the potential additional costs for implementation, staffing issues and space issues, as well as questions about how under the new law, administrators are to discern what student behaviors are seriously disruptive enough to warrant on out-of-school suspension.
HB 5826 attempts to address some of these expressed concerns which were left largely unanswered by the initial legislation by first extending the deadline for implementation of the new law by an additional year from the original effective date, and secondly, by requiring Connecticut’s Education Commissioner by October 1, 2008 to issue guidelines to help boards and administrators determine whether a pupil should receive an in-school or out-of-school suspension. HB5826 clarifies that a central location can be used for in-school suspension, and that each school does not have to have an in-school suspension room. Until the Commissioner issues his guidelines, a number of issues remain outstanding, but after a preliminary meeting with the Commissioner, the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education reports that at this point, there is no requirement that a certified teacher be assigned to monitor in-school suspended students.
School boards and school administrators are encouraged to stay informed and abreast of attempts in upcoming legislative sessions to modify, clarify, or even repeal this recent legislation and its predecessor PA 07-66. In the meantime, school boards that have made accommodations for the implementation of the new in school suspension laws may implement those changes, but are not legally obligated to until July 1, 2009. The more prudent approach is to wait until the newly set deadline for implementation, or minimally wait until the education commissioner issues his guidance this October before implementing any responsive changes.
School boards are encouraged to make their voices heard on this issue before guidelines are issued and prior to the legislation taking effect.