How do you accomplish racial equity?
One way is to stop suspending students.
That’s a takeaway of St. Paul Public Schools’ equity committee after studying the subject.
On Tuesday night, William Hill — who serves as Central High School’s “restorative practices coordinator” — laid it out to the school board:
“We cannot do our jobs if the students are at home.”
As reported by Pioneer Press, the subject’s particularly relevant where certain races are concerned — the district “continues to kick Black and American Indian students out of class at high rates.”
By the numbers:
Black students, who made up 26 percent of district enrollment, received about 73 percent of out-of-school suspensions in 2019-20, according to reports to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, which is monitoring the district’s discipline data. American Indians made up 1 percent of enrollment but around 5 percent of suspensions that year.
The board’s equity committee was started in 2019.
Where suspensions are concerned, Superintendent Joe Gothard — who requested the committee be launched — had this to say:
“We’re going to have to review them all. Do I want less students suspended? Absolutely.”
Well, one way to have fewer suspensions is to suspend less people.
That’s called a guaranteed success.
Just ask New York Mayor Bill De Blasio — he kept fewer people in jails and then celebrated the empty cells:
Bill de Blasio Triumphs: New York Jails Are Their Emptiest Since 1946, and the City’s ‘Safer For It and Better For It’ https://t.co/rfC2OCUXxP
— RedState (@RedState) July 19, 2020
As for the notion of suspension in general, it is an odd affair: As many have pointed out before, suspension takes a kid who doesn’t want to be at school and makes his wish come true.
But to hear West Side School of Excellence Principal Nancy Paez tell it, suspension shames those who receive it. They also miss out on what the Press calls “opportunities for restoration.”
How to you shut down the shame?
[Restorative Practices Coordinator William] said that to stop all suspensions, the district should research alternatives and create a task force to move in that direction. He emphasized the role that teachers play in suspensions, suggesting the district identify teachers who never remove students from class so they can train those who do it often.
William called for the school system to correct “misconceptions educators have about our children.”
If you’re a teacher and you disagree:
“[T]his might not be the district for you.”
The equity committee addressed more than just suspensions.
They put a plethora of problems to the board:
- There aren’t enough non-white teachers — just 21 percent compared with 79 percent of students — and staff generally lack cultural and racial awareness.
- High teacher turnover prevents schools from maintaining a positive school climate.
- The curriculum does not sufficiently reflect students of color, causing them to disengage from school.
- There is “an ingrained belief” that there’s only “one path to success” and it’s by doing “the same things white people do.”
- Parents whose first language is not English struggle to navigate the Individualized Education Program process for their special-education students. Meetings move too quickly, and interpreters are provided only during the meetings, making it difficult for parents to follow up.
That’s a lot to fix.
Hopefully, they’ll figure out how to keep from doing what the white people do — if that’ll make things better.
As for “cultural and racial awareness,” if that’s a weak spot, St. Paul has really fallen behind compared to a lot of cities.
It doesn’t sound as if the suggestions will make students more academically astute, but that isn’t the committee’s job — they’re out for equity.
And equity, it’s to be expected, they shall have.
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