September 6, 2016

For over two months, Governor Chris Christie has had legislation on his desk that would put New Jersey in the forefront of efforts to make sure young children stay in school. The legislation, Senate Bill 2081, was overwhelmingly passed by the State Senate and Assembly on June 27 and sent to the Governor. The legislation bans most expulsions and suspensions for students in preschool through second grade. Governor Christie must act on the legislation by September 8.

If the Governor signs the bill, New Jersey will join a handful of other cities and states, including Philadelphia, New York City, California and Oregon, that have taken strong steps to curb harsh discipline policies for children in preschool and students in the early grades.

State law currently bans suspensions and expulsions for preschool students. Senate Bill 2081 extends the ban through second grade, except as provided in the State’s “Zero Tolerance for Guns Act.” Also of critical importance is the legislation’s directive on early detection and prevention programs to address behavioral issues that impact upon learning in preschool through second grade classrooms.

Education Law Center strongly supported Senate Bill 2081 in the Legislature.

Research shows that suspending children at young ages can have a lasting impact on their academic trajectory and is often ineffective in assisting them in understanding and managing their behavioral issues. Sara Rimm-Kaufman, associate professor of education at the University of Virginia has found that problematic behaviors in elementary school can be evidence of academic deficiencies that need to be addressed as early in a student’s school career as possible.

Other research suggests that behavior problems may be signs of undiagnosed disabilities. Using suspensions as a way to address an elementary student’s behavior not only deprives the child of important classroom learning time but is also likely to exacerbate his or her academic and behavioral struggles, while failing to effectively address the underlying causes of the behavior.

In 2014, California enacted legislation eliminating suspensions for children in kindergarten through third grade and banning the use of expulsions for all students for minor misbehaviors.

In 2015, Oregon significantly limited the basis for suspensions and expulsions for children in preschool through fifth grade.

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration announced plans to eliminate suspensions for students in kindergarten through second grade.

“Governor Christie has the opportunity to ensure preschoolers and elementary students stay in school and build a solid foundation for academic success,” said Shira Baron, an Equal Justice Works Fellow at ELC working on school discipline prevention. “We urge the Governor to sign Senate Bill 2081 to keep our youngest students in the classroom and put New Jersey at the forefront of the nation on positive education reform.”

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Press Contact:

Sharon Krengel

Policy and Outreach Director


973-624-1815, x 24

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Press Contact:
Sharon Krengel
Director of Policy, Strategic Partnerships and Communications
973-624-1815, x240