As Ashland County sheriff, I know high-quality early education can set children on the right path in life, create safer communities and save Ohio money down the line. Studies show the early years are a crucial time when children learn important skills that set them on the path to successful lives.
They also show that kids who receive high-quality early learning are less likely to engage in crime down the road. But kids who face suspension and expulsion in the early years of school lose out on critical time in the classroom that would be spent providing them with those tools.
That’s why I support SB 246, known as the SAFE Act. It would significantly reduce suspensions and expulsions of children in pre-K to third grade, and ensure teachers have the necessary resources to support children’s social and emotional development. That way, if a child has challenging behavior, he or she can be kept in school instead of sent home.
In the rare cases in which a child does need to be removed from school, principals would be required to consult with a mental health professional before they issue an out-of-school suspension or expulsion. Law enforcement leaders care about reducing expulsion because research shows that children who exhibit challenging behaviors are likely to experience later behavior problems and academic troubles.
These are key indicators that a child could drop out and subsequently become involved in crime. As such, the children that are most at risk for expulsion are the ones who can chiefly benefit from early education. Statewide, more than 34,000 children were suspended out-of-school or expelled during the 2016-17 school year. But, according to state data, the SAFE Act would have eliminated about 93 percent of those suspensions or expulsions.
With this legislation in place, the kids who need quality learning most would have been kept in school, and teachers would have received the tools they needed to properly address students’ challenging behaviors. I urge our state lawmakers to pass the SAFE Act to make sure kids from pre-K to third grade can stay in the classroom, and to ensure our teachers have everything they need to make sure their students gain the skills they need to succeed in life.