Despite complaints that it fails to go far enough, a House committee Wednesday approved a bill that would ban public school suspensions or expulsions for uniform violations.
The measure, Senate Bill 54 by Senate President Pro Tem Sharon Broome, D-Baton Rouge, cleared the House Education Committee without objection.
It has already passed the Senate and next faces a vote in the full House.
The bill started as a wide-ranging measure that would ban most out-of-school suspensions for students from kindergarten through third grade.
However, Broome announced last week that she was scaling back the legislation amid criticism from a variety of public school groups.
“As you know, in this process, you make adjustments,” Broome said of major changes to her original proposal.
Referring to opponents, she said teachers and administrators “took a very demonstrative stand in terms of their ability to have autonomy” over classroom control.
Under the revised version, public schools would be prohibited from suspending or expelling students from prekindergarten through fifth grade for uniform violations unless they were linked to a “willful disregard of school policies.”
State Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge, backed the measure but said it should do more.
“If you are out of school, you are not being schooled,” said Smith, a former member of the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board.
Smith said the state needs to come up with alternatives to student suspensions “rather than putting them at home, on the streets.
“So I am disappointed that you have to water your bill down,” she told Broome.
State Rep. Gene Reynolds, D-Dubberly, a former school principal, said the last step he took as an educator was to suspend a student.
“That is just what they want,” Reynolds said.
Rep. Nancy Landry, R-Lafayette, a member of the committee, said she has a constituent whose child had to miss a math class because of a rivet in her clothes.
An official of the Southern Poverty Law Center said uniform violations last year accounted for 10 suspensions of more than 15,000 for students from kindergarten through fifth grade.
The group backed Broome’s original bill but took a neutral stance on her revamped plan.
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