SAINT PAUL, Minn. – Today, the Minnesota House of Representatives approved new legislation to help Minnesota’s students and young learners. Among other provisions, the bill provides for mental health training for teachers, vaping-prevention instruction for students, and expanded access to alternative academic and behavioral support services.
“Our bill would create a safer climate for our students, and help ease burdens on our school administration and staff,” said House Education Policy Committee Chair Cheryl Youakim (DFL-Hopkins). “While I am happy we passed these provisions, we still have so much more work to do for our students to make sure that school is a welcoming environment for everyone.”
The bill also includes a groundbreaking provision authored by Rep. Ruth Richardson (DFL – Mendota Heights) limiting the circumstances under which schools can suspend or expel prekindergarten children.
“The educational disparities in our state start in the earliest years,” said Rep. Dave Pinto (DFL – St. Paul), the Chair of the House Early Childhood Finance and Policy Division. “We should do all that we can to ensure these young learners remain in school and learning.”
Under the provision relating to preschool suspension, expulsions and exclusions could only be used when non-exclusionary discipline practices and interventions have been exhausted, and only in circumstances where there is an ongoing serious safety threat to the child or others.
“Students in preschool are three times more likely to be suspended than students in grades K-12 and these dismissals disproportionately impact Black and Indigenous children and students with disabilities,” said Rep. Richardson.
Other provisions in the bill include a process for school nurses to dispose of unclaimed medications and the delay of an upcoming deadline by which child care providers are required to meet certain standards in order to continue to receive funding. Unfortunately, Senate Republicans refused to adopt a key provision that would increase efforts to recruit more teachers of color.
A copy of the bill can be found here.