Challenges and Questions - Defining Terms

There are lessons to learn from HB 2663's one-year old sibling, SB 100, which was the comprehensive discipline-reform law that went into effect during the 2016-2017 school year. One issue that is sure to be present in the implementation of HB 2663 is the same definitional tug-of-war that has occurred with SB 100. For instance, SB 100 only allows out-of-school suspensions for three days or less if a student's continuing presence in school would "pose a threat to school safety or a disruption to other students' learning opportunities." Words such as threat and disruption are inherently subjective: A threat to whom? What constitutes a disruption? Similarly, HB 2663 allows planned transitions only in insistences where "persistent and serious challenging behaviors" emerge. Schools and programs will need to develop appropriate definitions to guide their decision-making.

Another consideration is the standard for temporary removal of a child. Although the law expresses a strong preference for keeping children in their school or program, it allows removal upon the determination of a "serious safety threat to a child or others" or for other behaviors such as bringing a gun or knife to school. Again, the standard of what constitutes a "serious" safety threat may be subjective and may lead to uneven implementation of the law. One solution may be to provide a list of defined, concrete behaviors that fall into the "serious" category as CPS does in their student code of conduct. As schools look to create guidance for HB 2663, they should be sure to avoid categorizing certain age-appropriate behaviors (e.g., talking out of turn) as "serious" behavior.