Murphy, Congress members introduce bill to establish positive school climate

By:  Korey Wilson
The Hour

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Chris Murphy was joined by a number of lawmakers in the nation's capital to introduce a bill that aims to address the school-to-prison pipeline Thursday.

The Supportive School Climate Act of 2015 seeks to reduce suspensions, expulsions, and other overly harsh school disciplinary actions to improve youth outcomes.

The bill aims to give every student ample opportunity to form positive and trusting relationships with adults in a school environment that is supportive of their needs while encouraging the use of evidence-based strategies that promote positive behavior.

Murphy was joined by Sen. Cory Booker, Rep. Katherine Clark, Rep. Danny K. Davis, Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Bobby Scott for the bill's introduction.

"The facts show that when we force students out of school, we're not only sending them back to an environment far less conducive to learning, but are setting them up for failure in the long run," said Murphy.

"The system needs to change. Instead of using ineffective and unnecessarily harsh methods to change a child's behavior, we should be developing support services for schools and educators to help our youth achieve better outcomes.

"The Supportive School Climate Act will give our schools the resources they need to ensure that positive school climate measures are seen as a critical part of school policy rather than just an afterthought and will get these kids back in the classroom and on the road to success," Murphy said.

Research has found that students are often suspended, expelled and arrested for minor offenses that could be handled by school.

The Supportive School Climate Act would allow states to use federal education funds for positive behavioral interventions and support, providing that interested states work to:

(1) Ensure that school discipline policies align with civil rights laws and are applied equally to all students.

(2) Provide technical assistance to state and local education professionals, including training on trauma-informed approaches.

(3) Coordinate efforts with local education agencies, maximize reintegration of students involved with the criminal and juvenile justice systems.

(4) Strengthen current law that governs coordination between school systems and correctional facilities, ensuring that once kids are incarcerated, they have a meaningful opportunity to turn their lives around when released.

(5) Establish systems for sustained family and community engagement.

(6) Provide transparent reporting on aggregated and disaggregated data of incidences of suspensions, expulsions, disciplinary transfers and referrals, seclusion, restraint, and school-based arrests at the state and local level.