by Marsha Augustin
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Parents are demanding changes to how schools punish students. The “Solutions, Not Suspensions” bill is co-sponsored by state Senator Samra Brouk, and on Tuesday night, dozens of people in Rochester were calling on state lawmakers to pass it. Students and parents shared their stories about school suspensions — the inequities and the effects on students — at Tuesday evening’s Children’s Agenda event. Many said suspensions do more harm than good. “Suspensions don’t help anything; it’s more of a punishment than a solution,” Victor Vega, a student in the Rochester City School District, said.
People who say they are directly impacted by the negative consequences of school suspensions Tuesday came together to find solutions that focus on helping students instead. Sahiyra Dillard, a RCSD student, was suspended for 40 days for an altercation with another student. “Suspensions affects students mentally, it drains them, it diminishes every single bit of confidence,” she said.
Sixteen states have already banned suspensions and expulsions in pre kindergarten through third grade. Some parents believe it’s time for New York to take similar steps. Tiyanna Johnson says her son was suspended when he was just 3 years old. “He had special needs. Instead of exploring what support and services, he was initially suspended,” Johnson said.
According to a report by The Children’s Agenda, analyzing data from the state Department of Education from all school districts in New York, more than 135,000 students were suspended during the 2021-22 school year, and close to 900,000 days of school were lost to suspensions. Black and Hispanic students were up to five times more likely to be suspended than white students. Similar rates were found for students with disabilities and from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
Larry Marx, CEO of The Children’s Agenda, says reducing suspensions would help end the school-to-prison pipeline. Marx went on to say suspensions create a disengagement from school and a lack of interest. Advocates say the Solutions, Not Suspensions bill would encourage schools to find supportive ways for kids to learn from their mistakes. It would shorten the maximum length of suspensions from 180 days — which is a full school year — to 20 school days.
“A child that was suspended once is far more likely to fail classes, far more likely to not graduate high school, and far more likely to be involved in the criminal justice system,” Marx said.
Watch the video. Get New York State data in Common Sense Reform to School Discipline in New York.
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