Fernando Martinez, national field organizer for the Dignity in Schools Campaign, speaking at Thursday's press conference. (Photo by Mark Robinson)
A coalition of local and national organizations is calling for Virginia to place a moratorium on out-of-school suspensions, which disproportionately affect African-American students.
The Advocates for Equity in Schools Henrico Coalition and I Vote for Me, partners of the Dignity in Schools Campaign, launched the “Solutions not Suspensions” initiative at a Thursday afternoon press conference held at the state NAACP headquarters in Richmond. The "Solutions Not Suspensions" campaign, started in 2012, has found support among 22 organizations across 14 states.
“The consequences of school pushout are so dire because pushout undermines the educational outcomes of students of color,” says Janel George, senior education policy counsel for the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which is supporting the campaign.
Dignity in Schools advocates for public school divisions to end the use of zero-tolerance policies, which have led to the disproportionate suspension and expulsion of black students and students with disabilities, according to self-reported data available through the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. The punishments push students out of public schools and contribute to what critics call the school-to-prison pipeline.
On Tuesday, the University of Pennsylvania released a report analyzing the disciplinary practices of 13 Southern States, including Virginia. The report found that the region's school divisions, including Chesterfield, Henrico and Hanover counties, suspended African-Americans at a rate disproportionate to their respective enrollments.
Thursday’s press conference was the third event held on a regional tour to raise awareness about the disparities. On Tuesday, the organization attended the Chesterfield County School Board meeting. On Wednesday, it hosted a community forum. Tonight, the group will be at the Henrico School Board meeting held at the New Bridge School Auditorium, 5915 Nine Mile Road, at 6:30 p.m.
At podium: Jack Gravely, interim director of the Virginia State Conference NAACP. (Photo by Mark Robinson)
“The people in our community must come together … it’s on us now,” says Jack Gravely, interim director of the state chapter of the NAACP.