In America, data over the last decade shows that Black children, especially Black boys, are suspended 2 – 3 times more than their counterparts. Black and brown children were highest amongst any other racial group as being primary targets of the school to prison pipeline. Suspension from school is a big factor in the number of black and brown children between the ages of 12 – 17, victims of the school to prison pipeline. I believe that suspension being banned from schools would be a helpful solution to this issue . Banning out of school suspensions would require school Districts and families to make a lot of changes in discipline. These changes would enhance the work of SEL as well as the engagement of families and communities in curriculum. I believe banning suspension would create true community schools that affirm restorative practices in educating children and empowering families.
Here’s what a suspension free school program could like and/or include:
- Restorative Justice conflict resolution best practices
- PBIS discipline best practices
- No Place for Hate inclusiveness best practices
- Family and Community engagement best practices
- Social Emotional Learning (SEL) best practices
- Character education curriculum implementation
Restorative Justice is important in helping teach students conflict resolution. We can no longer place our youth in a position where entertainment is their primary source of how to resolve issues with others. Social media and reality TV should not the example of how to defuse a situation. A great way to use restorative justice within the school program is through classroom management, athletics and P.E./wellness department.
PBIS supports restorative justice work. Positive behavior intervention support builds in effective discipline models that correct poor behaviors and decision-making. PBIS is mostly used in middle school but the best practices should begin as early as third grade. Engagement is key! Students cannot be expected to sit, be quiet and be unengaged during lessons. The philosophy that teaching should be fun gets confused with fun meaning play time. There are effective ways that students can be engaged within classroom lessons while modeling PBIS best practices that help keep discipline manageable.
No Place for Hate is something every school, traditional public and charter needs right now amidst the climate within America. Inclusiveness must be a part of the school’s culture in order for every student and family to feel like that belong. How students and families perceive the school and its intentionality about their success is reflected by how they see themselves. Welcoming environments have to go beyond translating information in Spanish and having a one a year All Around the World cultural event. A No Place for Hate school environment is actively teaching how to work with other religions, cultures, genders and with people with physical, sexual or intellectual differences.
Curriculum that embeds character education reaches families, includes communities and drives social, emotional learning best practices. Education is a critical piece in the continual expansion of the prison system in America. Advocacy for educational equity requires us to look at the root causes of the injustice. Black boys especially have been not only targets but many victims of the school to prison pipeline for decades. Equity begins with every child have more advantages than disadvantages to succeed academically and socially in this country. Improving and turning around schools begins with how we educate and inspire children while empowering the families and communities that rear them as well.
All of these interventions and support practices only work if families and communities are in line with the vision. A community that says we will have an inclusive, safe, engaging and healing community school will have a school whose values are reflected inside and outside of the school wall. Banning suspensions from schools requires just this. It is a solution to the many issues we’ve been advocating for and around, specifically how to effectively educate Black boys. We must have a holistic approach and focus on supporting the entire school program with not only academic but student support resources in key to educational reform for community based schools.