Gov. Mills signs Breen bill to reduce early childhood suspension, expulsion

Posted: June 28, 2019 | Education and Cultural Affairs, Senator Breen

AUGUSTA — Legislation sponsored by Sen. Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth, to reduce early childhood suspension and expulsion rates by providing a consultation program for teachers and parents of young children was signed into law by Gov. Janet Mills on Thursday.

“This bill, now law, will help ensure we are setting our children up for success in the classroom and beyond,” said Sen. Breen. “This early childhood consultation program has proven successful in other states at reducing suspensions or expulsions that can have far-reaching adverse consequences for children and their families. I am grateful to Gov. Mills and all of the advocates and legislators who have supported this program over the years for finally getting it over the finish line.”

LD 997, “An Act To Promote Social and Emotional Learning and Development for Young Children” would create a statewide voluntary program where consultants with advanced training in mental health and child development would be made available to teachers, child care providers and parents to manage and contain the impact of challenging behaviors in the classroom. Maine has the second highest rate of preschool student expulsions in the United States, and such disruptions in a child’s education can lead to the student missing out on the benefits of school and the evaluations and services that come with it. It can also cause significant difficulties for parents, including employment loss. These factors can perpetuate the child’s behavioral problems; in fact, research has shown that the No. 1 predictor for expulsion from school is previous expulsion.

“We know from brain research conducted on young children the early years are crucial and lay the foundation for later development. While we often focus on whether children have the cognitive or language skills necessary for school, we must remember that children also need emotional and social skills if they are going to succeed in school or future employment,” Rita Furlow, Senior Policy Analyst at the Maine Children’s Alliance. “With this program, parents and overworked early childhood teachers will be able to get the support they need help these children develop the skills necessary to navigate life.”

The Legislature approved a similar bill last year but it was vetoed by Gov. Paul LePage. LD 997 will take effect on September 19, 90 days after the Legislature adjourned sine die.