Durham Public Schools’ out-of-school suspension program is deeply flawed and does long-term damage to students.
It denies students a constitutionally guaranteed education. It alienates families and community leaders, labels students criminals, damages their self-concept and ultimately pushes them out of school.
This insidious program, built on zero-tolerance concepts of the criminal justice system, is a poorly constructed punishment plan masquerading as a disciplinary system. It does not correct unacceptable behavior, nor does it use positive methods of altering behavior.
OSS is used across the state and throughout the nation. Education journals, researchers and advocacy groups have produced hundreds of reports that condemn OSS. It is a major reason students drop out of school, and it feeds the school-to-prison pipeline.
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Under this system, children are suspended for truancy or engaging in childish behavior such as staring, and kindergarten students are suspended for essentially having temper tantrums.
The schools have been captured by a culture of punishment under which students, teachers and administrators are damaged.
The DPS board should be daring enough to eliminate OSS. Here is an opportunity for the board to demonstrate strong leadership for Durham and the state. Disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline, educate all the children and stop the child abuse.
Hollis W. Shaw