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Legislation restricting suspensions, expulsions for Maryland's youngest students passes

Legislation significantly restricting the circumstances under which Maryland's youngest students can be suspended or expelled from school is headed to Gov. Larry Hogan's desk after receiving final approval Saturday in the House of Delegates.

The Senate already had approved an identical version of the bill. Both chambers passed the legislation by veto-proof margins despite sharp opposition from some Republican lawmakers.

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Del. Brooke Lierman, a Baltimore Democrat and the bill's sponsor in the House, said she was "really proud" of the legislature for passing the bill.

The legislation allows the suspension or expulsion of students in pre-K through second grade under only the most narrow circumstances. When permitted, suspensions may only last five days. Schools will be required to provide individualized interventions for students with behavioral issues.

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Lierman said state statistics showed children of color and those with disabilities were more likely to be suspended, and studies show kids who have been suspended at an early age do worse in school later in life.

"The child just isn't able to understand what the suspension and expulsion means, and instead takes away a negative attitude about school," Lierman said.

Under the new legislation, teachers and others will have "the tools they need to help children work through any behavioral issues they may have," Lierman said.

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