Choose not to expel students

Daily Editorial Board

Following a string of incidents in which students allegedly attacked their teachers, the Minnesota Senate Education Committee recently heard two very different proposals regarding how the state’s public schools should address student discipline.
Sen. David Brown, R-Becker, proposed a bill that would require public schools to expel any student who assaults a teacher. Brown said the bill “[sends] a message … that assault will not be tolerated.” 
But critics worry that Brown’s message is far too harsh — his bill doesn’t account for the age, background or special needs of students accused of assault. 
In contrast to Brown’s bill, Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, has put forth a “Student Inclusion and Engagement Act.” Pappas seeks to prohibit mandatory expulsion for students accused of assault. Her bill calls for educators to use alternative disciplinary measures. 
We favor Pappas’ proposal over Brown’s. A universal policy of mandatory expulsion would fail the public education system by treating young children in the same way it treats high school students. Additionally, students who assault their teachers are likely to be the ones who would benefit most from education and public engagement. Expulsion would deprive them of those benefits. 
Schools should have the freedom to harshly punish older students who assault their teachers — but for the state to require they expel any student accused of assault opposes common sense.