ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Parents are calling for reforms in the way schools discipline students. Dozens of individuals in Rochester rallied on Tuesday night, urging state lawmakers to pass the “Solutions, Not Suspensions” bill, co-sponsored by state Senator Samra Brouk.
At Tuesday’s The Children’s Agenda event, students and parents opened up about their experiences with school suspensions. They shared stories that highlighted the inequities and the negative impact suspensions have on students. According to their accounts, suspensions often do more harm than good.
Victor Vega, a student in the Rochester City School District, expressed his belief that suspensions do not offer a solution but rather serve as a punishment.
A group of individuals who claim to be directly affected by the adverse effects of school suspensions gathered on Tuesday with the common goal of finding solutions that prioritize student support and assistance.
Sahiyra Dillard, a student at RCSD, received a 40-day suspension due to her involvement in a physical altercation with another student.
“Suspensions have a profound impact on students, both mentally and emotionally,” she asserted. “It depletes their spirit and erodes their self-confidence.”
Sixteen states have already taken the initiative to ban suspensions and expulsions for children in pre-kindergarten through third grade. Now, many parents in New York are calling for their state to follow suit and implement similar measures.
Tiyanna Johnson shares that her son faced suspension at the tender age of 3.
“He had special needs, but instead of addressing his support and service requirements, he was initially suspended,” Johnson explained.
A recent report by The Children’s Agenda examined data from the New York State Department of Education and revealed that over 135,000 students were suspended during the 2021-22 school year. Shockingly, this resulted in nearly 900,000 days of school being lost due to suspensions.
The report also highlighted a stark disparity, with Black and Hispanic students being up to five times more likely to face suspension compared to their white peers. Similarly concerning rates were observed for students with disabilities and those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
According to Larry Marx, the CEO of The Children’s Agenda, the reduction of suspensions would play a crucial role in putting an end to the school-to-prison pipeline.
According to Marx, suspensions result in a disconnection from school and a decrease in motivation. The Solutions, Not Suspensions bill has been praised by advocates, who argue that it would promote a more supportive approach to helping students learn from their mistakes.
The proposed change aims to reduce the maximum length of suspensions from 180 days, equivalent to a full school year, to just 20 school days.
According to Marx, a child who has been suspended once is at a significantly higher risk of failing classes, not graduating high school, and getting involved in the criminal justice system.