Wintergreen preschool students Haven Rae Smith (front, left), Madeline Swanberg, NIcholas Hopkins, Andi Kelley and Owen Nadeau color pictures during the first day of school in September 2020. Credit: Melissa Lizotte / The Star-Herald

PORTLAND, Maine — The Maine Legislature is looking to cut down on suspensions and expulsions of students during early childhood.

Maine has the second-highest rate of preschool student expulsion in the country. The Legislature is considering a bill that would expand a pilot program already in use in half the state’s counties.

The program makes mental health and child development consultants available to teachers, child care providers and parents. A bill before the Legislature would take the program statewide. Both houses of the Legislature have approved the proposal but it faces further votes before it can be enacted.

Bill presenter Sen. Cathy Breen, a Democrat from Falmouth, said the program would provide “teachers and child care providers with a research-based and compassionate approach to managing behavioral issues.” The program provides the services at no cost.