Louisiana: Under New Bill, Students May Be Required To Be Assessed Before Being Suspended Or Expelled

The House Education and the Workforce Committee on Tuesday passed a measure that would require behavioral evaluations before kids could be expelled, put in an alternate school, or suspended from their current school. As part of the Louisiana Department of Health’s new policy, proposed by Baton Rouge Democratic Rep. C. Denise Marcelle, H.B. 222 would require a kid to take a state-approved examination before being expelled from school.  In addition, schools would not be able to suspend kids for failing to adhere to the clothing code, and children in elementary and middle schools who were found in possession of a pistol or knife longer than 2.5 inches would be given discretionary punishments.

There is now a legislation that mandates that any kid discovered in possession of a weapon will be suspended from school.

Student suspensions in grades K-8 could only be issued in cases where the student’s actions were meant to inflict substantial physical injury or mental distress on someone else.

Representative Barbara Freiberg of Baton Rouge and Representative Vincent St. Blanc of Franklin both voted in support of the measure, which passed 5-4.

In order to find out why a student is being expelled, “it actually requires that they do an assessment of the students prior to to see if we can intervene and figure out why they’re getting expelled,” Marcelle said. “Too many of our expelled students are walking the streets during school time and not knowing what’s going on with them.”

LCHE President Alma Stewart-Allen joined Marcelle in presenting the legislation. According to Stewart-Allen, she prefers to see pupils who have been traumatized be examined and referred for treatment rather than punished in schools.

It is possible that the Adverse Childhood Experiences Assessment (ACEA), which Marcelle and other members of the committee noted, may be employed.

Rep. Beryl Amedee, R-Houma, disagreed with that judgment, claiming that the inquiries are excessively invasive.

The committee heard Amedee read a few of the questionnaire’s questions. “Were your parents ever separated or divorced?” Amedee said. “Do you live with anyone who has a problem with drinking or alcohol or who use street drugs? Was a household member depressed or mentally ill or did a household member attempt suicide?”

Stewart-Allen disagreed with Amedee’s interpretation of the evaluation. For the sake of saving a kid, Stewart-Allen noted that being invasive was not always harmful.

Charles Owen, a Republican from Rosepine, questioned if parents will be able to opt their children out of the evaluation.

According to Marcelle, children’s parents have the option of declining to have their children examined.

Owen also expressed some of Amedee’s privacy worries. Marcelle responded: “I certainly want to protect people’s rights and privacy for their kids but not at the cost of a kid dying or suicide or any of that.” She pointed out that most parents will not report themselves for child abuse.

According to Louisiana Save Our Schools’ spokeswoman Jennifer Kerrigan, the ACE evaluation is a cause for alarm.

Southern California researchers conducted ACE in 1995 and 1997, according to Kerrigan. There were two rounds of work. Kaiser Permanente collaborated with the CDC on this project. Adults were the subjects of this study. ACE has now been adapted for use with young people.”

According to experts, follow-up research has corroborated the initial results, and ACE tests are now widely utilized throughout the United States.





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