April 21, 2014. The Courier-Journal.
They prayed, they sang, they held up signs and they made demands — for an end to zero tolerance policies in Jefferson County Public Schools that have resulted in 9,093 suspensions so far this year — 68 percent of them of students who are black.
About 120 members of CLOUT — Citizens of Louisville Organized and United Together — crowded into a school board meeting Monday and insisted that the district adopt “restorative practices,” in which misbehaving students are dealt with in school, through conflict resolution, rather than being sent home and onto the streets.
Taylor Johnson, an eighth-grader at the Brown School, testified that it doesn’t do any good to suspend a pair of students who fight — unless their issues are resolved — because they will fight again when they return.
“Zero tolerance is a disservice to all students,” she said.
Brandon Porter, another eighth-grader at Brown, said zero tolerance keeps students from aiding students who are bullied — for fear they also will be suspended — and makes schools more dangerous.
Paula Broyles, a teacher and parent, cited the story of a boy who she said was pulling some change out of his pocket at a school concession stand when his pocketknife came out too.
He had to be expelled, she said, over the protests of teachers, because he had a weapon.
And Chris Harmer, the head of the Louisville chapter of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, said that in Boston, which adopted district-wide restorative practices a few years ago, only about 150 students were suspended last year — about 1 percent of the number in Louisville.
But Superintendent Donna Hargens was unswayed.
She said CLOUT, with which she’s met 16 times since her appointment in 2011, insists on imposing “one solution to a multifaceted issue.”
Defending the district’s approach, which includes what it calls “positive, preventive and supportive approaches” — but also making sure students understand the rules — she said, “We are not going to reduce suspensions by ignoring misconduct.”
– See more at: http://opuesta.net/dart1/wordpress/press-room/2014/04/clout-demands-school-discipline-changes/#sthash.iGeUa2JI.dpuf