PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Keep kids in school was the message some community members, parents, and students were trying to spread Tuesday.

Their voices were loud and clear as they pushed for big changes to the discipline policies in Pittsburgh Public Schools.

“We are disproportionally suspending and pushing out of school black children and children with disabilities,” Pamela Harbin said.

Protestors say in the 2013-14 school year, nearly 75 percent of student suspensions were students of color.

That’s just one reason for the rally outside the Pittsburgh School District offices in Oakland – about an hour before the scheduled school board meeting Tuesday.

The parents, students, and community activists want school administrators to end the school-to-prison pipeline. They want zero tolerance policies replaced with counseling and positive behavior intervention.

“One suspension can take a child off the educational track. So, a lot of times, people think, ‘Oh, one suspension, they’ll straighten up and get back to school,’” Harbin said.

Protestors say that’s often not the case.

“Most of the families now are two-parent working families and you send the kids sometimes home to an empty house. These are not the kind of policies we need to have in our schools right now,” Harbin said.

The rally was organized by Action United and the Center for Third World Organizing.

Members of the group submitted recommendations last month. Now, they’re calling on the school board to take action.

“Use the alternatives to make sure that the kids are in their seats and that they’re learning and teachers need the support to be able to do that work,” Harbin said.

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