The Pasadena Unified School District reached consensus on a set of recommendations from a task force working to decrease suspensions among Black elementary school students, according to one board member.
The information item was presented to the board last Thursday and the recommendations will soon come to the board for a formal vote.
In the fall of 2021, after students returned to schools from distance learning due to the pandemic Black elementary school and special education students faced more suspensions than Asian, Latino and White students, according to the presentation.
Black students make up about 10% of the students in the district.
A Black Student Success Task Force was convened to address school discipline practices leading to disproportionate suspensions in black elementary schools students, according to a statement released on Monday.
“All of these years for decades, things keep changing for all kinds of groups in the community and all kinds of groups in society, but for Black students in public education, things have remained largely the same,” said PUSD School Board Member Michelle Richardson-Bailey said at the June 23 Board meeting where her recommendations were accepted.
“We would be doing our students an injustice if we didn’t get every single able-bodied employee, board member, staff person, parent to come alongside us with this and support change for our Black students.”
The recommendations included only allowing out-of-school suspensions in Transitional Kindergarten (TK) through 5th grade in incidents where violence results in injury or incidents that lead to mandatory expulsion, in accordance with the California Education Code.
Additionally, the recommendation also included limiting out-of-school suspensions to not more than two days and providing restorative intervention and practices to students to facilitate a comprehensive return to campus.
The task force also recommended additional staffing and district wide training resources that will begin in the 2022-23 school year.
The African American Parent Council (AAPC) established the Black Student Success Task Force at the advice of Superintendent Dr. Brian McDonald after raising the issue of the suspensions in a meeting earlier this spring.
The primary objective of the Black Student Success Task Force was to provide recommendations to reduce the exposure of Black students to harsh discipline practices and increase the instructional time that Black students spend in classrooms learning.
The AAPC moved swiftly to assemble a broad coalition of parents, educators, students, administrators, district leadership and community stakeholders to participate in this endeavor.
Over the last 10 weeks, the newly formed task force met to analyze data, review current district practices, assess available district resources and develop recommendations on policy change as well as identify needed staffing, training and services to mitigate the disproportionality that currently exists.
The BSS Task Force was facilitated by local educator, community advocate and PUSD alumna, Patrice Marshall McKenzie.
“The AAPC, District, administrators, teachers, PUSD families, students, and community partners engaged in these thoughtful endeavors in response to persistent overrepresentation of Black children in disciplinary measures. While suspensions have declined over time, disproportionality remains,” said Nia Bailey, president of the African American Parent Council.
“We will make our case for policy changes for the upcoming school year, beginning with students TK-fifth grade, where disproportionality is highest. Suspensions are not harmless and can result in feelings of isolation, disengagement, frustration, and difficulty socially and academically. We all want schools that are safe and conducive to learning. The complication lies in how we achieve that. We will disrupt persistent disproportionality in suspensions and keep our kids in the classroom where they belong.”