Beginning on July 1, 2010, schools will be required by law to implement the school suspension law first passed in 2007 creating a presumption for in-school suspension and whose implementation date was twice extended by the Connecticut legislature as recently as October 2009.
With the close of the May 2010 legislative session, the Connecticut legislature once again addressed the in- school law, but unlike in the past, it did not delay the implementation date. Imbedded in SB 438, An Act Concerning Education Reform in Connecticut is the repeal of the most recent permeation of Connecticut’s suspension law and the substitution of a new version of the statute. The new statute reiterates the previous standard that suspensions shall be in-school suspensions unless during a hearing with the student and school administration, the administration determines that the pupil being suspended poses such a danger to person or property or such a disruption of the educational process the pupil must be excluded from school. However, the substituted version of the statute allows school administration to suspend a student out of school if the student’s disciplinary history supports such action and the administration has made efforts through other means besides suspension or expulsion to address the misconduct and those efforts have not been successful. The statute specifically states that such means may include positive behavioral supports.
The new language in the suspension law serves to clarify that school administration retains discretion to suspend students out of school in instances where a student engages in a disruptive course of conduct. The caveat is schools must be able to point to the efforts and interventions that they have taken to effectuate a positive change in the student’s behavior. The law does not specify what those efforts must be in order to be adjudged sufficient except to provide that they must go beyond traditional disciplinary action like suspension or expulsion and may include positive behavioral supports.
This additional language can be considered a small, but important victory for school administration who is charged with the daunting task of maintaining order and safety in Connecticut’s public schools and who has lobbied for the ability to retain discretion to exercise their best judgment under the unique circumstances of each case warranting disciplinary action.