General Assembly gets it right but also gets it wrong

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The Ohio General Assembly is moving in the right direction with one bill that concerns kids and going the wrong direction with another.

First, the bill that’s going in the right direction, SB 167, which proposes to end the “policy of zero tolerance for violent, disruptive, or inappropriate behavior.”  Enacted in 1998, zero tolerance has been plagued by problems. Administrators have failed to demonstrate critical thinking when employing it, and its use is often discriminatory. Because it generally lacks key elements such as fairness and flexibility, zero tolerance likely doesn’t send the right message to kids. Good for Senator Charleta Tavares for sponsoring this bill. Want to read more? See

The bill that goes in the wrong direction is H.B. 334, which proposes to give Ohio schools authority to expel, for up to 180 days, students who pose an “imminent and severe endangerment to the health and safety” of other students or employees. The American Academy of Pediatrics thinks the bill is a bad idea because it’s reactive and does nothing to cure the problems that underlie bad behavior. According to the AAP, the effectiveness of expulsion “policies that demand automatic or rigorous applications are increasingly questionable.”

The academy proposes three solutions in dealing with troubled students: 1) accessible early intervention for pre-school children; 2) making greater efforts to identify kids who are at-risk and provide them with assistance, such as counseling, behavior-focused study, and helping them develop problem-solving strategies, and 3) promoting school-wide support for positive behavior where “desired behaviors are actively taught, clearly and consistently expected, and positively recognized and acknowledged.”

Getting rid of troublemakers is expedient and politically attractive, but it doesn’t solve the underlying problems. Either we invest resources to address those problems now, or we expel more kids and deal with the financial consequences later. Want to read more? See my op-ed piece.

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