Nebraska bill aims to prohibit suspension of preschoolers, early grades

A Nebraska state senator wants to stop the school-to-prison pipeline by keeping misbehaving kids in school.
Published: Mar. 7, 2023 at 6:46 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) - There are efforts in Nebraska to change what is often referred to as a school-to-prison pipeline. The push also involves pre-schoolers.

“There’s a significant disparity on who we are disciplining,” said Elizabeth Eynon-Kokrda with the Education Rights Council. “We are disciplining minority children, and on the basis of disability.”

Several children’s rights experts testified before the Nebraska Legislature’s Education Committee on the importance of keeping kids in school when they misbehave, with a focus today on those between pre-k and second grade.

“Pre-school children are three times more likely than k-12 children to be suspended or expelled,” said Ana Salaza with Voices for Children.

“Students who are pushed out of the classroom are more likely to end up in the criminal justice system,” said Sen. Terrell McKinney.

Sen. Terrell McKinney’s bill would prohibit schools from suspending pre-k to second graders, essentially pushing Omaha to find alternatives for disciplining students.

“I know people think I’m quiet now, and some people think I’m sweet, but i used to get suspended a lot,” McKinney said. “I had issues dealing with classmates and teachers.”

Sen. McKinney believes teachers need more resources and training for best practices when it comes to behavior modification. He believes this is key in Omaha, reducing the number of kids who end up in the criminal justice system.

“Not to knock the teachers, I think schools are overburdened. We’re just kicking kids out and throwing them to the wolves.”

Another bill heard Tuesday afternoon is a companion piece which, if a student was expelled, would require the school district to have specific requirements for coursework while they are in alternative school.