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Parents Report School Discipline “Horror Stories”

A citywide group of parents collecting “horror stories” of inappropriate suspensions and harsh discipline of children as young as kindergarten age — and developing recommendations to “redirect the school-to-prison pipeline — will present their findings to CPS president Michael Scott in a public meeting on Friday.

The group took up the issue, focusing on elementary school discipline, because “everywhere we talked to parents, the major concern was discipline,” said POWER-PAC member Nelly Torres, a West Town parent. “Kids were getting suspended for any little reason — brushing against a teacher in the hallway, or talking at lunch. It seemed obvious to parents that it just wasn’t right.”

Working with Southwest Women Working Together, West Town Leadership United, and the Austin Parent Network, the group held three community hearings on “Elementary Justice” this spring. “We heard about too many cases of punishment not fitting the crime, and of children being suspended without their parents being informed,” said Pamela Dominguez of SWWT.

They learned that 90 percent of CPS elementary schools have eliminated recess, and many have instituted “silent lunches,” said Kellie Magnuson of COFI. But their request to CPS for school-by-school data on suspensions and expulsions was never answered, she said.

They met with teachers union and police officials. “The police were saying that they’re tired of being called for little things that the school should handle,” said Torres.

“We’re seeing younger and younger kids who are facing expulsion and juvenile court cases” for “behavior that would more appropriately be addressed in-school,” said Lauren Adams of Northwestern’s Children and Family Justice Center. “Otherwise you’re pushing children out of school.”

POWER-PAC is recommending discipline policies that emphasize education, with out-of-school suspensions only as a last resort, and education provided during in-school suspensions and detentions. They want recess reinstated in all schools, and silent lunches banned. They want the Uniform Discipline Code with parent input and alternative discipline programs adapted and piloted in elementary schools. They are calling for parent orientations on discipline policies as well as discipline committees in schools and citywide with parent participation. And they want schools to report annually on suspensions and expulsions.

POWER-PAC members will meet with Scott on Friday, May 20 at 10 a.m. (coffee at 9:30) at UNITE union hall, 333 S. Ashland

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Category: CPS, school discipline

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