Ohio Lawmaker Seeks to Ban School Suspensions for Young Children

There’s a lot of wonky stuff that goes on in public schools. There’s plenty that happens in private ones, too. As a result, a lawmaker in Ohio is proposing something a bit unusual. Due to the alarming number of suspensions in Ohio schools, she wants to ban them all together for young students.

Sen. Peggy Lehner, a Republican representing Kettering, is the chairperson of the Senate’s education committee. She was troubled by the fact that there have been a reported 36,000 suspensions per year for elementary school students.

Some of these suspensions are, indeed, idiotic. One nibbled bread from his lunch into the shape of a gun. Another used his finger and thumb in the timeless way of mimicking a firearm. Both were suspended.

“I was like, ‘Are you sure about that?'” Lehner asked. “It wasn’t for serious things like biting and tossing chairs. It wasn’t threatening-type behavior.”

As a result, Lehner is calling for an end to suspensions for children in third grade and lower except in cases where the student is threatening himself or others.

She believes that schools would get better results through de-escalation tactics and mental health services. She also suggests in-school suspension as a better alternative.

Teachers and administrators disagree and say that things should be taken on a case-by-case basis. Unless bread is turned into a firearm, I’m sure. On that, I’m positive there can be no tolerance or understandings.

Anyway, I see where Lehner is going with this, and I’m not entirely sure she’s wrong. Some kids may not even understand why they’re being suspended, thus negating the purpose of the punishment. Plus, I’ve always thought suspending kids from school was kind of like punishing someone with free ice cream. You’re just giving the kids what they probably want: a few days at home with no school. “Please don’t throw me in the briar patch!”

However, an outright ban might not be the best option, either. Sometimes, the suspension is more about protecting the other kids in school rather than just punishing the guilty. Completely taking away this tool from educators may not be the best possible move.

Should students at that age be suspended nearly as often —and there’s some confusion as to the number, which may involve some students being counted twice for the same suspension — as it seems they are? Probably not. It certainly sounds like the tool is being used more than is needed.

Instead, there’s probably some middle ground between Lehner’s proposal and what educators are doing now, particularly regarding things like in-school suspension, counseling, and de-escalation tactics. Those are tools that need to be in that toolbox and be used far, far more.