Push for Alternatives
Cari Hachmann, The Portland Observer, 10/03/2012
Portland Parent Union founder Sheila Warren (right) with her husband Ronald Warren and granddaughter Paris Warren work to end school suspensions and create alternatives for youth at risk of being pushed out of critical learning opportunities.
The Portland Parents Union invites the public to attend a meeting on Saturday, Oct. 6 in northeast Portland to educate and discuss alternatives to school “pushouts,” a description for the disproportionate number of minority youth who are suspended or expelled from school by zero-tolerance policies.
In support of the “National Week of Action on School Pushouts,” parents, students, educators and advocates from across the country are taking action to expose the crisis of children being left behind and advocate for in-school alternatives.
According to the group’s “Solutions not Suspensions” initiative, every year, 3.3 million students in the United States are suspended from school, causing them to miss critical learning time as well as opportunities to grow and succeed.
Recent federal data shows that black and Latino students, and students with disabilities, are disproportionately targeted by suspensions. They are also likely to be punished more severely than white students for minor misbehaviors, contributing to the achievement gap and high dropout rates for these students.
The parents argue for a moratorium on suspensions and expulsions, citing a school-to-prison educational track and juvenile justice system that too often fails to serve at-risk youth.
Portland Parents Union founder and activist Sheila Warren is asking the community to join her in an open conversation on the issue and create action together to reduce the harm of pushouts.
“We are looking for the village to show up,” said Warren, a mother and grandmother who started the Portland Parents Union in 2009 after feeling “pushed out” of decisions made for her children by school administration and lacking the collective support and representation to deal with it.
“We want families to have the real conversations,” said Warren. “We also need to hear from those who are educating and making decisions for our children. This action is imperative because we are all in this together.”
Rather than giving students no option but to leave school, the parents union would rather see schools adopt positive approaches to discipline like restorative practices and positive behavior supports.
The national campaign calls on states and school districts to support teachers and schools in dealing with discipline in positive ways, such as keeping students in the classroom and helping educators work with students and parents to create safe and engaging classrooms that protect youth’s human rights to education and dignity.
Warren recognizes that some districts, schools and organizations are implementing actions to reduce the “pushouts.”
The Portland Parents Union’s Restorative Listening Dialogue will be held from 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Westminister Presbyterian Church, 1624 N.E. Hancock.
Originally published here