You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

Austin trustees approve ban on suspensions through 2nd grade


Highlights

Policy bans home suspensions, expulsions or alternative disciplinary programs for pre-K through second grade.

The Dallas, El Paso and Houston districts also have passed similar suspension ban policies.

Of the 351 prekindergarten through second-grade students suspended last year, 85 percent were black or Latino.

The Austin school board Monday night unanimously approved a ban on suspensions for its youngest learners.

The policy prohibits discretionary home suspensions, expulsions or alternative disciplinary programs for students in prekindergarten through second grade, except in cases required by the state’s education code (such as when a student has committed a felony or is at risk of injuring himself or herself, other students or school staff).

While most in the packed boardroom supported the change — in both Austin and nationally, young black, Hispanic and special education students are disproportionately removed from classrooms — others questioned whether the ban is too limiting for school staff charged with keeping campuses safe and orderly.

“It’s about changing our practices to align with our values,” Superintendent Paul Cruz said. “Suspensions have gone down. It is true. But it’s about moving us to the next level. We can do better by our kids.”

Trustee Cindy Anderson said the district is “long overdue in owning the historically disproportionate overrepresentation” of minority children and those who have disabilities among those who are suspended.

“It takes a lot of courage to say, ‘Not only are we going to own it, but we’re actually going to commit to changing that,’” Anderson said. “We have to at least be willing to take the first step.”

Board President Kendall Pace said she’s proud to be in a district that takes steps to make sure policies are equitable, but she raised concerns that had been communicated to her by some principals.

“All of what is proposed looks great to us to those who aren’t on front lines … who aren’t in the trenches, who aren’t digging to see where and how schools run differently and serve different student needs,” Pace said. “It feels at some level that this is a superficial social justice win and lacks the deeper tenets to ensure lasting and real positive, academic and social emotional outcomes for all.”

The Dallas, El Paso and Houston districts have passed similar suspension ban policies.

Both supporters of the Austin ban and those who raised concerns about it packed the boardroom, with at least an additional two dozen spilling into the foyer and just outside the building. All 30 public input slots were filled about one hour after the sign-up opened on Friday to speak on the ban, and the majority supported the policy change.

Hundreds of students in prekindergarten through second grades are suspended from Austin schools every year. While numbers have been decreasing, black, Latino and special education students are suspended in disproportionate numbers, data from the district show. Of the 351 prekindergarten through second grade students suspended last year, 85 percent were black or Latino. Some offenses include using rude language and leaving without permission.

Those who support the ban said suspensions are punitive and ineffective, leading to higher rates of academic failure, dropouts and prison, pointing to research that backs their claims. Others said the vote was rushed and they feared the district didn’t have plans in place or the resources to effectively support teachers once the ban takes effect this fall.

Rocio Villalobos of Texas Appleseed, the group that pushed the district to enact the ban, agreed that teachers, especially those new to the field, need better training and support. But she also urged trustees not to hesitate to approve the ban. “When people’s lives are significantly affected due to implicit bias, we should have the courage to acknowledge it and do something about it,” she said. “End the harmful practice of suspending and criminalizing little kids.”

Govalle Elementary teacher Sasha Devore told trustees that schools need more help, and said it’s “growing increasingly difficult to remain supportive if we’re not going to get support ourselves.”

“When the students are arguing the teacher down, and tearing up her classroom and leaving, it’s not affluent white kids who are staying behind in class to get ahead,” Devore said. “It’s my son, an 8-year-old black (gifted and talented) student who is not getting the enrichment he needs, whose mother aged out of foster care to become the first one to graduate from college. It’s my students, who are also black and brown low-income families, who are also trying to catch up with society and break those cycles of poverty.”

Labor group Education Austin met with administrators and created a list of 12 non-negotiable points to make the ban work. Among them, every campus will be given a full or part-time position to coordinate and support the new suspension ban. The district has added nine additional staff members to give campuses additional support in preparation for the ban.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Austin police honor pedicab driver who helped catch sexual assault suspect

Austin police are honoring a pedicab driver who played a crucial role in helping police catch a sexual assault suspect last year. Luis Palos was recognized today for his distinguished service. In the early morning hours of May 19, Palos heard a loud wail near Fifth and and San Antonio streets, according to the suspect’s arrest affidavit...
Texas House broadens police authority in ‘sanctuary cities’ bill
Texas House broadens police authority in ‘sanctuary cities’ bill

Lawmakers cried, fought and traded horses on the Texas House floor in a marathon debate Wednesday on the bill to ban so-called sanctuary cities, the common term for jurisdictions that decline to assist federal immigration enforcement. Calling it the defining showdown of this legislative session for their constituents and wearing black in protest, outnumbered...
Raucous crowd protests ‘sanctuary cities’ bill at Texas Capitol 
Raucous crowd protests ‘sanctuary cities’ bill at Texas Capitol 

Immigrant families as well as their friends and allies gathered at the Texas Capitol Wednesday evening, a crowd of several hundred dressed in black to protest a state bill that would ban so-called sanctuary cities. The Texas Senate has already approved the bill, and the House is taking up the bill today.  City Council Member Greg Casar, who...
Texas members of Congress differ on Trump tax plan
Texas members of Congress differ on Trump tax plan

“Pro-growth tax reform should be our goal, and it’s something that’s united Republicans and Democrats in the past, and there is no reason why we shouldn’t be united again in accomplishing that tax reform. So I look forward to hearing more about the president’s proposal, and I applaud him for making a bold statement about...
Austin school officer who scuffled with eighth-grader faces grand jury
Austin school officer who scuffled with eighth-grader faces grand jury

In the first case under a new system for handling possible police misconduct, Travis County prosecutors have begun presenting a case to grand jurors against a former Austin school district officer captured on video in a physical confrontation with a middle school student. Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore confirmed the case to the...
More Stories