Parents Cheer As Minneapolis Schools Back Off On Suspensions

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Rev. Paul Slack

Bill Sorem

Rev. Paul Slack

Parents and religious groups are cheering a policy change putting a moratorium on suspensions in Minneapolis elementary schools for non-violent behavior.

Reverend Paul Slack of ISAIAH called the policy change “one major step in addressing the racial equity crisis and the school-to-prison pipeline permeating in our state’s public schools.”

For the last couple years Slack and parents have been urging Minneapolis school leaders for the moratorium because African American kids are disproportionately the ones who are suspended. Last year Minneapolis schools put a moratorium on suspensions for non-violent acts by pre-k, kindergartners and first graders. Goar says that helped reduce total suspensions by 34%. Suspensions for African American students were also down 34%. But African American students only make up 37% of the school population and still accounted for 68% of the suspensions (2,100 of 3,090 suspensions).

Interim School Superintendent Michael Goar originally declined to expand the suspension moratorium to all elementary students and ISAIAH walked out on a meeting with him. Slack says the next day Goar “gave me a call and said he had made a commitment to expand the moratorium on suspensions from Pre-K through fifth grade and that he had already indeed informed his principals of that. We consider that a great win and the right move for us to make as a state to protect our children and to protect them and keep them in our learning environment because that is the only way we can make the appropriate investments in our children.”

Police officers remain in schools

Parent Greg King says he sees suspensions are a symptom of teachers not having enough resources and being asked to do too much. “We see police officers as a choice in resources and we don’t think it’s the healthy one for kids.”

Police officers will remain in the public schools, something that Slack still objects to. “We believe public schools are for education and not for policing. We don’t believe we need to be criminalizing our children’s behavior. So for that reason we don’t agree with police officers being in the public schools system.”

“We know suspensions are a major contributor to the school-to-prison pipeline, which has manifested into a major racial equity crisis in our state,” says Slack. “It is disrupting our families and our communities who are paying now for our state’s growing inmate population. Dismantling this major pipeline will give students of color hope beyond prison bars, courts and further unfair policing.”

Bill Sorem

Bill Sorem is a longtime advertising professional who started with Campbell Mithun and ended up with his own agency. After a tour as a sailing fleet manager in the Virgin Islands he turned to database programming as an independent consultant. He has written sailing guides for the British Virgin Islands and Belize, and written for a number of blogs. In 2010, he volunteered as a citizen journalist with The UpTake and has stayed on as a video reporter.

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