Report shows inconsistency in out-of-school suspensions in city schools

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PITTSBURGH - A report from the Pennsylvania Department of Education indicates there is a difference in how black students and students with disabilities are disciplined in Pittsburgh’s city schools, leaving parents demanding change.

The report shows that out-of-school suspensions are disproportionately given to students like Carmella Jones' 13-year-old daughter, who struggles with behavioral issues.


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Jones said her daughter was sent home from school for ripping paper off a wall.

“She was suspended for two days,” said Jones. “I didn't understand why anyone wasn't willing to hear with her. Basically, they just decided to suspend her instead of working with the family.”

Parents in situations similar to Jones’ have teamed up with local nonprofits to form Great Public Schools Pittsburgh. They have proposed seven recommendations to the school district’s administration. The recommendations include assigning a full-time counselor or social worker to every school to coordinate interventions and support for students, and placing a moratorium on out-of-school suspensions for students in pre-K through fifth grade.

However, the recommendations have not yet been acted upon.

“We are pursuing the school board to have them adopt several of the policies that we have recommended so that the code of conduct for 2015-2016 can be updated,” said Bill Bartlett, of Action United.

The district said it is planning a series of meetings to review the recommendations. The school board will make its decision in the coming weeks.