June 29, 2018: The school day over, the Latino eighth grader gathered his things and prepared to head home. But the principal stopped him, reprimanding him for carrying a scooter.
By the time the principal finished chewing him out, the student’s bus had left. He walked into the school to call for a ride, where the principal and a security guard tackled him, held him prone, and had the police arrest him. The principal also suspended him for a week.
Excessive, don’t you think? Unfortunately, this student’s experience is not unique. Schools disproportionately use punitive disciplinary measures on students of color, making it difficult for young people to stay on track to complete their education. Called school pushout, practices like inappropriate suspensions, expulsion, and forced transfers literally push students out of school.
But we don’t have to accept the way things are, and your support can make a difference for kids. The Public Justice Center’s education equity initiative is taking on these challenges through individual representation in suspension and expulsion cases, know-your-rights and advocacy education for youth and parents, as well as systemic advocacy. Together with Disability Rights Maryland, the Maryland Office of the Public Defender, and the Youth, Education and Justice Clinic at University of Maryland School of Law, the PJC launched the Maryland Suspension Representation Project (MSRP) to provide advice and represent students facing suspension and expulsion. Through MSRP, we represented the student mentioned above in challenging the suspension and the unlawful physical restraint before the school system and state department of education. We got the suspension reversed, as well as an order requiring the school system to train staff on the proper use of restraint.
That’s how the education equity initiative is meant to work: getting justice for individual students while also addressing the systems that perpetuate school pushout. You can help continue this advocacy by making a gift today. With this school year wrapped up, your generosity will keep us fueled and ready to advocate for kids when school resumes in the fall.