Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

K-Grade 2 Suspensions Halted

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

K-Grade 2 Suspensions Halted

Article excerpt

PATERSON -- School officials have decided to stop suspending children in kindergarten through second grade, a change made after Paterson Press last week reported that the district imposed such punishment on 238 of its youngest students.

The prohibition on out-of-school suspensions for the lowest grades will take effect Nov. 1, state-appointed Superintendent of Schools Donnie Evans announced at Wednesday night's Board of Education meeting.

In the meantime, Evans said, his administration would come up with "creative, yet impactful interventions for students who otherwise may be suspended out-of-school." Evans also said his staff would provide him with a report on strategies for addressing the problem by Dec. 22.

Paterson Press last week reported that Paterson public schools had given out-of-school suspensions to 53 kindergartners, 81 first- graders and 104 second-graders during the 2015-16 year.

"Many in the community, including myself, were both troubled by this data and were immediately challenged to change such outcomes for our children," Evans said on Wednesday.

There was no indication the district planned to take any immediate action on the suspension issue until the numbers were exposed by Paterson Press, prompting outrage among community leaders and drawing the attention of television news crews.

The district has not revealed exactly what offenses its youngest children committed to get suspended. But the discussion at Wednesday night's school board meeting indicated that some of the infractions may have been far more severe than what many people may have thought.

"It's not behavior that you would normally see in students this age," said veteran school board member Jonathan Hodges.

Hodges said the situation had been discussed in detail at a committee meeting earlier in the week.

"They're bringing drugs to school, weapons, knives," Hodges said. …

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