If you’d like to share a post about what you learned about compassion (The First Step), what you’re seeing in your world (The Second Step), self-compassion (The Third Step), empathy (The Fourth Step), mindfulness (The Fifth Step), action (The Sixth Step), how little we know (The Seventh Step), how to speak to one another (The Eighth Step), or concern for everybody (The Ninth Step) use the link list below. Or join the discussion in the comments or on Facebook.
“Concern for everybody” gets easier, for many of us, when it’s framed as “concern for children.” I’ve been learning a lot in the last year about how school discipline impacts kids, forcing them out of classrooms sometimes as young as PreK or Kindergarten, losing the earliest opportunity to experience the classroom as a safe, comfortable, and powerful learning environment. Suspensions are issued more frequently to students of color and students with disabilities than other students, often for the same infractions.
I’ve also learned about many great alternatives. Lots of educators are trying out better ways to help our kids work through their sources of stress and to build stronger relationships with their teachers and classmates.
Reform School Discipline Policies was a major section in the report of the Ferguson Commission, Forward Through Ferguson. See pages 41-43 and 125-127 for details. One call-to-action in that section is:
Eliminate the option for out-of-school suspensions and expulsions for students in pre-kindergarten through 3rd grade.
When I tell people that, the response is usually, “they suspend kindergarteners?” The answer is ‘yes.’ Nearly every school district in the St. Louis area suspends their youngest students, and they disproportionately suspend their black students. If you live in the St. Louis area, consult the database in this report to see how your school district did.
For the past several months, many organizations in the St. Louis area have worked together to arrange an event that celebrates our commitment to our youngest students. We are hoping for a tremendous turn-out for our kids. We expect superintendents, staff, and citizens from the 30 school districts in our region to commit to a reduction or elimination of suspensions of our Pre-K through 3rd grade students and to begin to address racial disparities in school discipline. Please join us!
This is not a problem confined to St. Louis or to Missouri. Unless you live in one of the handful of states or districts that have eliminated the practice, your school district probably suspends their youngest children.
Maybe you want to speak to your school board and ask them to try something that works better for our kids. Or, maybe, you want to organize a Regional School Assembly: Keeping Our Kids in the Classroom for your area. Let me know if you have questions and I’ll address them in my occasional series on How to Change the World.