NEW MEXICO (KRQE) — A bill introduced in the legislature could limit how schools deal with students who act out in class. They want the elimination of suspensions and expulsions for younger students.

Those in favor said it could change how students perform in class for the better, but others worry about the strain it could put on educators.

“I was stuck on those words where he was a ‘liability,’ and it’s hurtful. It’s hurtful to a parent with a child with special needs,” said Tarra Main.

Tarra Main is a parent who has experienced firsthand how removing a child from the classroom affects that child and the whole family. Her son was expelled from his pre-k care center back in 2015 because the staff could not handle his behavior.

“When this happened to my son at the daycare, I had to take him out, and I became unemployed. I had to become unemployed to take care of my child, which then, you know, that creates more of an effect on the family,” said Main.

Senate Bill 283, sponsored by senator Harold Pope, would stop expulsions and suspensions for students in pre-k through second grade. There would only be exceptions for the most serious situations, like if a student gets violent in the classroom.

The Early Childhood Education and Care Department (ECECD) said the children entering school for the first time right now may need more help adapting since many of them have been raised during the isolation of the pandemic. They explained this bill could help prevent further social and emotional isolation.

“When children are expelled or suspended, and that research has shown that in later poor academic outcomes, children have a negative view towards school,” said ECECD Cabinet Secretary Elizabeth Groginsky, “And this contributes then to, you know, either early dropout or children not really persisting and feeling valued in their school or early childhood environment.”

Some educators said they support the bill and expulsion or suspension has not been effective at curbing bad behavior. They do caution that the proposal will only work if there are other ways to handle those who act out in class. They stress the need for more social workers and other resources.

Last year, 900 students in the second grade or younger were suspended statewide.

SB 283 is expected to be heard in the Senate Education Committee Friday morning.