PHOENIX — Katie Luddy is the mother of a 15-year-old freshman at an East Valley school. The boy was suspended for five days after he was allowed by a teacher to “cool down” outside the classroom in a hallway. When found by a security officer, Luddy says her son was taken to the principal’s office, had an altercation with the school security officer and was suspended.
“The school did not follow the rules, my son was allowed to be out in the hallway and he was trying to get the officer to address the teacher to corroborate his story,” Luddy said in an interview at her Tempe apartment.
She then called what she described as 'a village of help' for her son. She contacted the ACLU, along with other organizations, to prove that her ‘A’ student shouldn’t have been suspended.
“If you are going to use this [Senate bill 1149] to hold them back even further and not allow them to have options...it's going hurt them in the long run in a big way,” said Luddy. She says her son is college-bound and since giving him the suspension the district has retracted and listed the record to show school-related absences instead of a suspension.
As Senate Bill 1149 looms over the state capitol, parents like Luddy worry that a suspension on their child’s record could put them at risk of not being able to transfer to another district.
According to the proposed bill, students in grades 9-12 who have been suspended or expelled could lose the ability to transfer to another district.
“It really is a very reactionary piece of legislation that we feel is not worth the risk of the damage that it can do to these at-risk kids,” said Representative Diego Rodriguez (D-27). He voted against the bill last week.
The bill was introduced by Senate Majority Leader Rick Gray of Sun City. Tuesday afternoon, he said the bill needed work.
“Any time you do legislation you have got to be careful you are addressing a problem without creating others,” said Sen. Gray, a Republican. He plans on meeting with community stakeholders such as the NAACP and representatives from public school districts and charter schools before it continues onto the floor of the House, where it currently sits.
The bill passed the Senate last month when it was a bill about tax credits. When it went to the House, it became what is known as a ‘striker’ bill. Lawmakers removed the original text and inserted language on an entirely different topic.
“I’m skeptical about motives, about the reason why it didn’t go through the normal process. There’s a reason why bills go through a normal vetting process,” said Representative Rodriguez.