Introduces Bipartisan Bill Following Attendance at White House Conference on Bullying Prevention
Washington, DC – After attending a White House Conference on Bullying Prevention, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today introduced a bill to address student disciplinary and academic problems with early identification and intervention. He is also an original cosponsor of a bill to protect Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) students from discrimination and improve student learning in schools around the country.
“Students have the right to go to school in a safe learning environment, where they are not subjected to fear of harassment or violence,” said Bennet. “That’s the best way to support academic achievement for all students and create a climate where students want to learn and teachers want to teach. As a former superintendent, I have seen first-hand what a difference creating the right kind of school climate can make in school performance.”
Bennet introduced the bipartisan Achievement Through Prevention Act to improve student academic achievement, reduce over-identification of children with disabilities and reduce disciplinary problems in schools by intervening early. The bill will remove red tape and provide flexibility for schools to access, expand and improve two programs. These programs help create a positive learning environment, as well as establish systems to provide early interventions tailored to the needs of each child.
He also cosponsored the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA) to protect LGBT students by establishing a comprehensive Federal prohibition of discrimination in public schools based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity and providing victims with meaningful and effective remedies. The bill was introduced by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN). Colorado Rep. Jared Polis has introduced a similar version of the bill in the House of Representatives.
Currently, LGBT students and parents have limited legal recourse for this kind of discrimination. Establishing a comprehensive Federal prohibition of discrimination in public schools based on sexual orientation and empowering victims with meaningful and effective remedies for discrimination would represent an enormous step toward safe public schools for all kids.
The Achievement Through Prevention Act would allow schools to increase school-wide implementation of Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS) and Early Intervening Services (EIS) to enhance academic and behavioral outcomes for all students by identifying and helping those students who need targeted intervention.
PBIS helps establish a school-wide system, based on proven, effective methods, to change how schools address the longstanding needs of children who struggle in school. The data-driven program has reduced suspensions and expulsions and increased student achievement by creating a safe and positive learning environment for all students and by providing individualized interventions for the students with the most serious needs. Suspensions have been reduced in schools implementing PBIS, which currently serves more than 300,000 students in Colorado.
In Colorado’s PBIS schools, the average number of out-of-school-suspensions per school dropped from 45 to 22 in three years, compared to the state average which remained virtually unchanged, from 43 to 42 in the same time period. One particularly stark example of such a school district in Colorado saw a 55 percent reduction in office discipline referrals by its third year of implementation, accounting for more than 1,300 referrals. As a result, this district’s schools saved more than 650 hours of instructional time.
EIS can help catch students who are struggling early and ensure they receive the support they need. Early identification of struggling students and the use of scientifically-based academic and behavioral interventions, as well as evaluations and support, can promote academic success. EIS also reduces inappropriate referrals and placements to special education.
These programs, which are in place in many schools across the country, are producing successful results in overall learning environments and student achievement.