To: Senator Peggy Lehner , 6th Ohio Senate District, Chair of the Senate Education Committee

Tell Ohio Senate: No More Pre-K Suspensions

The School-to-Prison Pipeline Starts in Preschool.

As racist incidents occur in schools nationwide, the Ohio legislature cannot miss the opportunity to abolish the policies that have laid the foundation for the crisis we are witnessing. Senator Lehner and the Education Committee: we urge you to pass HB410 with all amendments. Eliminate suspensions and expulsions of kindergartners and take the steps needed to end the school to prison pipeline. No child should have their right to an education denied because of racist disciplinary policies.

Why is this important?

I am a parent of two Black children. In schools across America, Black children account for 18 percent of preschool enrollment but almost half (48 percent) of children suspended more than once in a school year.

My son was one of these students. My son was expelled from school at age of 5 years old, as a pre-schooler, his very first year of school. From the beginning, children are being taught that they deserve the harsh and punitive treatment that first experience in the classroom and will soon confront in the world. We are here to say that Black children matter.

For the first time, the state of Ohio has an opportunity to be a leader in changing these policies by passing HB 410 with amendments that would begin making it possible for parents like me to finally have a say in what happens to their children.

Several other states are leading the way in banning the suspension and expulsion of students in early grades. From New Jersey to Oregon, states have eliminated suspensions for pre-schoolers and students up to 5th grade. We know that even this is not enough to mitigating the negative impact on children as young as 4 years old.

In addition to Amendment 2629 to end pre-school suspensions, we support provisions in HB 410 that prohibit the use of suspensions and expulsions for truancy as well as the following:

Amendment 2630 – Tiered discipline: Students should not be suspended for issues that could be easily resolved with a phone call home.
Amendment 2639 – Make up work: It goes without saying that suspensions cause students to get behind on work. Education is a human right. No students should be denied classroom instruction because of racist disciplinary policies.
Amendment 2605X4 – Tolling of suspensions during the summer: Students who were suspended at the end of the school year should be able to start the new school year with a fresh start. Rather than applying remaining days suspended to the new school year, students will be allowed to participate in community service over the summer instead. We urge you to include language in this amendment stating that participation in any community service or alternative consequence will not require families to incur additional costs, such as transportation costs.

The same year my child was suspended, Kylen English, a 20-year-old lost his life while in custody of Dayton police. He was handcuffed in the back of a police car the last time he was seen alive. Within a few months, we started Racial Justice NOW! because we knew that unless we built real political power for Black students and families to change the written and unwritten rules, our lives would continue to be at stake.

It will be 5 years this November that I co-founded and became Executive Director of Racial Justice NOW! I also serve as Co-Chair of the Dignity In Schools Campaign, a coalition of over 100 organizations from 27 states dedicated to dismantling the school to prison pipeline. And while we have made strides towards dismantling the school to prison pipeline, the rate at which change is happening is killing our children.

My hope is that in this political moment, even more people will join the fight to fight for the futures of Black children. The fight for Black children is the fight for the future.

Dayton, OH, United States

Updates

2016-12-03 08:01:05 -0800

1,000 signatures reached

2016-12-02 14:01:07 -0800

500 signatures reached

2016-10-29 09:28:58 -0700

100 signatures reached

2016-10-28 05:53:21 -0700

50 signatures reached

2016-10-27 20:24:19 -0700

25 signatures reached

2016-10-27 18:19:09 -0700

10 signatures reached