Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Add School Counselors, End Suspensions

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Add School Counselors, End Suspensions

Article excerpt

Byline: Tonyaa Weathersbee

To some, John Jackson sounds as if he's calling for an end to death and taxes.

Jackson, who is president of the Schott Foundation for Public Education, told people who gathered at the fifth annual Urban Education Symposium in Jacksonville that school suspensions should be ended.

His call to end out-of-school suspensions, in fact, echoes the call of Solutions Not Suspensions.

This is an initiative of Dignity In Schools, a grassroots movement of educators, students and community leaders concerned with seeking alternatives to policies that tend to push many students, especially black males, off the path to graduation and onto the path to prison.

Ending suspensions is not impossible.

Some recommendations - such as not using out-of-school suspensions as a punishment for tardiness - are already in place here. Also other changes that the initiative calls for, such as mediation and restorative justice, are included in the Duval school system's conduct code.

BLACKS BEAR THE BRUNT

Recent school system data shows that out-of-school suspensions hurt black students' chances of success.

Black girls made up 77 percent of all the female suspensions while black boys made up 71 percent of the male suspensions for that year.

The ratio of black students being suspended is obscenely high, and data doesn't show that suspension or expulsion improves school climate or student behavior. In 2008, the American Psychological Association found the opposite was true. It's time for a bold solution.

Especially since their failures may become costly to the rest of the society in terms of incarceration and dependency.

"We definitely agree that suspensions should be a thing of the past, especially when you talk about behaviors that don't pose a threat to the safety of the school," Scott Roberts, campaign coordinator for the Advancement Project, told me. …

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