Pittsburgh Public Schools could change way younger students are punished

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Public Schools board members are talking about banning suspensions for its younger students who commit nonviolent acts.

For months, parents have been urging the district to change the way it punishes younger students.

They say too many are being suspended and missing class for minor offenses.

Wednesday night, board members said students in kindergarten through second grade were suspended for things like not having a pencil or a notebook.

This comes after a group made several recommendations to the board.


Pittsburgh Public Schools board members are now listening to parents.

"The reasons they were given for suspensions were silly," board member Sylvia Wilson said. "Sometimes they didn't have pencil, homework, late to school."

She and others heard from a group put together to look at how the suspension policy should be changed.

"The focus is on nonviolent suspensions where kids are not doing anything harmful to hurt another child," Wilson said.

Channel 11 has learned in the 2014-15 school year there were nearly 10,000 suspensions.

Last year, during Pittsburgh Superintendent Dr. Anthony Hamlet's first year there were about 6,000 suspensions.

Some of the recommendations include having a counselor and social worker in every school, in addition to having a cool-down room for students.

"All or those are really good, but have to think about other things and how to put those into place," Wilson said.

That's the question now facing the superintendent: how to put these recommendations into action and how to pay for them.

"The important thing is keeping kids in school so they can learn," Wilson said.

The board will look at suspensions for grades three through five at a later date.

The Education Rights Network also released a statement saying they support the recommendations and want the district to find the funding to make it work.