LITTLE ROCK, AR (KAIT) - There are 76 school districts in the state that are violating a state law banning the use of out of school suspension for children who chronically miss school, according to a report from Little Rock television station KATV.
The station reported that the districts range from Little Rock and the Pulaski County Special School District in central Arkansas to Fayetteville School District in Northwest Arkansas to Marked Tree and Pocahontas in Northeast Arkansas.
The Arkansas legislature approved Act 1329 in 2013 to deal with the issue.
Arkansas Education Commissioner Johnny Key told KATV that the idea of out of school suspension works against the educational process.
“You have kids that are truant and your discipline for them is to kick them out of school,” Key said. “There’s laughter because it is absurd when you think about it.”
Critics say the law has no real enforcement power and that the law is voluntary.
University of Arkansas professor Dr. Johanna Thomas said the situation is serious, especially for children at a young age.
“By first grade, we can tell with about 70 percent accuracy whether or not they are going to finish high school,” Thomas said.
Thomas told KATV that there are other factors that can determine truancy, including single parent households, parents working overnight, transportation, mental health and substance abuse issues.
Key said he has spoken with superintendents in recent meetings, stressing the need for the law.
“So far, we haven’t encountered any superintendent who has said, ‘You know what, I just disagree with this, I’m not going to follow it.’ In fact, it’s been quite the opposite,” Key, a former lawmaker, said. “It’s been, ‘Oh, wow. We didn’t realize it. Makes sense. We want these kids in school. We’ll find another way to deal with it.”
According to KATV, the following Northeast Arkansas schools were in violation of the law:
· Manila High School
· Marion Junior High School
· Marked Tree Middle School
· McCrory High School
· Nettleton Junior High School
· Pocahontas High School
· Riverview High School
· Academies of West Memphis Charter