SPED / School to Prison PipeLine / School Discipline

Research and data on school discipline practices are clear: millions of students are being removed from their classrooms each year, mostly in middle and high schools, and overwhelmingly for minor misconduct. When suspended, these students are at a significantly higher risk of falling behind academically, dropping out of school, and coming into contact with the juvenile justice system. A disproportionately large percentage of disciplined students are youth of color, students with disabilities, and youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT).

**Disclaimer: We have just included very brief descriptions which may not include amendments or clarifications. To read the full descriptions each piece of proposed legislation, visit www.tn.gov.capitol.com.

Sources for these “bills to watch” were Tennessee Commission on Children and YouthCouncil on Children’s Mental Health, and Nashville Feminist Collective.

HB 0037 (Dunn)/
SB 0029 (Hensley)
Prohibited Restraints on Students Receiving Special Education Prohibits the use of prone restraint (“restraint in which a student is held face down on the floor or other surface, and physical pressure is applied to the student’s body for the purpose of controlling the student’s movement”). Such restraints are potentially life-threatening.
HB 0174 (Butt)/
SB 0182 (Hensley)
Director of Schools – Authorization to Expel for Criminal Complaint This legislation would increase the # of expulsions and students remanded to alternative schools. A disproportionately large % of disciplined students are youth of color, students with disabilities, and youth who identify as LGBT. This legislation would exacerbate challenges for youth who are caught in the school-to-prison pipeline.
HB 0569 (Deberry)/
SB 0292 (Gresham)
Authorizes Teachers to Remove Disruptive Students from Class Requires each local board of education to adopt a policy for a teacher to remove disruptive students from the classroom. Establishes that the principal may not return a student to the classroom from which the student was removed following three documented removals without the teacher’s consent unless the Director of Schools intervenes.
HB 0266 (Butt)/
SB 0398 (Hensley)
Automatic Suspension for Student Felony Provides that students adjudicated delinquent for conduct or an act that would constitute a felony if committed by an adult are to be automatically suspended from school. Specifies procedure and requirements for readmission to school. Provides that student not meeting criteria for readmission to school is expelled from school for one year.
HB 1349 (Weaver)/
SB 0448 (Overbey)
Establishes a Progressive Truancy Intervention Program in K–12 Establishes a progressive truancy intervention program in K–12 schools that involves tiers of pre juvenile court programs designed to keep a truant child out of the juvenile court system. This legislation would reduce involvement of youth with juvenile court for truancy.
SB 0455 (Bell)/HB 0035 (Dunn) OPPOSE Offering pre-k program for at risk children. Allows an LEA that offers a prekindergarten program for at risk children to offer the program either during the school year or in the summer. Requires LEA’s conducting the summer prekindergarten program to provide at least six weeks, but no more than eight weeks, of instructions. Deletes the following section in current law at TCA 49-6-103(a): It is the legislative intent that, based on the success of Tennessee’s existing pilot pre-kindergarten programs, these programs be expanded on a voluntary basis by LEAs and the communities they serve to provide more opportunities for quality early childhood education and pre-kindergarten experiences.This legislation would eliminate legislative intent to expand pre-kindergarten programs and authorize provision of summer-only programs instead of full-year pre-k classes. These changes would erode the commitment to and could result in the loss of full-year pre-k classes with summer programs of six to eight weeks instead.
SB 0664 (Kyle)/HB 0689 (Powell)  SUPPORT Prohibits corporal punishment in public schools. This legislation prohibits the use of corporal punishment in public schools in Tennessee, including those operated by the Department of Children‘s Services at the Youth Development Centers (YDCs). By policy, corporal punishment was already prohibited at the YDCs. Many Tennessee school systems already prohibit corporal punishment, which is prohibited by law in 31 states, with most continuing corporal punishment in the south, and in over 100 countries according to the Center for Effective Discipline.
SB 0977 (Norris)/HB 0571 (Deberry)SUPPORT Legal representation for children in truancy proceedings. The bill would entitle children who appear before the court on a truancy matter to legal representation regardless of whether the court believes such proceeding will place the child in jeopardy of being removed from the child‘s home.Currently, TCA 37-1-132(b) provides if a child is found to be an unruly child, which encompasses truancy, the court has the discretion to remove the child from ―the home of the parent, guardian or other legal custodian‖ during a disposition hearing. When the adjudicatory and dispositional phases of an unruly proceeding are held days apart, the court has time to assess whether a child is in danger of being removed from the child‘s home and provide the child an attorney when it is appropriate. However, due to heavy caseloads and many other factors, the disposition hearings are often heard directly after the conclusion of the adjudication. In some instances, the disposition hearings and adjudications are held concurrently. To ensure the due process rights of children are protected, children should be entitled to legal representation in all proceedings alleging truancy.
SB 1241 (Bell)/HB 1154(Hulsey)OPPOSE Delinquent Acts of Student. Expands the delinquent acts committed by a juvenile that require notification to the LEA where the juvenile resides or last attended school. Requires LEA to be notified any time a juvenile is adjudicated delinquent for specified delinquent acts, instead of only when being initially enrolled in the school, returning to school from suspension or expulsion, or transferring to another school. Shifts responsibility of informing school about delinquency adjudication from the parents, to the juvenile court clerk or general sessions clerk.
SB 0165 (Tate)/HB 0697 (Akbari)OPPOSE BLENDED SENTENCING Increase notice from 3 to 5 days before transfer to criminal court. Requires that a child and the child’s parents, guardian, or custodian receive five days’ notice instead of three before a hearing to transfer the child from juvenile court to criminal court.This is a caption bill. According to staff reports it is intended to create blended sentencing in Tennessee. As introduced, it is positive in that it increases the notice time before transfer to criminal court for trial as an adult. Amendatory language is unavailable at this time, so it is not possible to assess the full impact. However, there is substantial information regarding blended sentencing Black‘s Law Dictionary defines ―blended sentencing‖ as ―a sanction that combines delinquency sanctions and criminal punishment.‖ Blended sentencing may either provide juvenile courts with tougher sentencing options (juvenile blended sentencing), or allow criminal courts to impose juvenile dispositions (criminal blended sentencing).