First, I want to thank the State Senators, Representatives, Youth, Rights & Justice, and everyone else who worked on SB 533. You have taken a marvelous first step in stopping the unnecessary suspensions of children Pre-K to 2nd grade.
Wait, what? Children that age get suspended when every piece of research shows how important classroom time is for their educational success?
Yes, friends. It happens. And it’s happening a lot all around the country. And, when it comes to children of color, it happens a whole lot more. For those who disagree with that statement and don’t click the link, a quick statistic. Black children make up 18% of the public education landscape, yet account for 48% of suspensions.
Over a full K-12 career, 5% of white students will receive a suspension. 15% of black children receive suspensions.
Many states, including Oregon, are taking steps. SB 533 “will prohibit most suspensions and expulsions in grades K–5, but it makes exceptions for incidents in which a student causes serious physical injury to students or staff through non-accidental conduct, a student’s conduct poses a direct threat to the health or safety of students or school employees,” writes Education Northwest. This eliminates suspensions for “disruptive behavior” which could mean anything from sporting a Mohawk to crying. For real. I once saw a preschooler disciplined because he wouldn’t stop crying. That disciplinary action snowballed into a suspension.
And, mind you, being suspended at any point in your academic career makes you three times more likely to drop out.
So, kudos to Oregon. We’re getting there.
What we need now is a program like Connecticut’s where Licensed Counselors of Social Work “parachute” into schools who may need ideas on how to redirect problematic behaviors.
To have a child development expert just swing by the classroom and answer questions as needed. I’m replaying a decade worth of children I’ve taught to see where that would have been beneficial. My estimate: Thousands.
Portland State University has a fantastic social work program with concentrations on Families and Children. Plus, PSU-trained social workers are some of the most dedicated, intelligent, and special people on the the planet. (Disclosure: My wife recently graduated from PSU with a Masters of Social Work). So we have a supply of social workers and counselors.
Let’s figure out a way to see Connecticut’s program not as something to which we should aspire, but as a very obtainable goal that is necessary for the success of our children.