N.H. Lawmakers Consider Overhaul of School Discipline Rules

Statehouse lawmakers heard over two hours of testimony today on a bill to overhaul the state's current school discipline law.

HB 677 would limit the length of out-of-school suspensions for theft, destruction, violence or possessing a firearm to ten consecutive days.

If students were suspended for more than a total of ten days per school year, their school would be required to provide them with an assessment and services.

The bill includes an appropriation of $5 million dollars in federal funds to help schools implement behavioral health model - called Multi-Tiered System of Supports for Behavioral Health and Wellness, or MTSS-B's - as alternatives to suspensions.

But school administrators expressed concern this wouldn't cover the cost of training teachers and hiring psychologists, and wouldn't leave them enough discretion.

Ken Page, the interim executive director for New Hampshire Association of School Princials, said the bill needed greater study and some tweaks before he could support it.

"We urge any changes to the law must consider the flexibility that is needed by the school leader," he wrote in a statement presented to the House Education Committee.

Proponents of the bill said the current rules are too broad, and have led to disproportionately high suspensions for students of color and students with disabilities.

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