PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — In the fight to keep young people out of jail; Pittsburgh is hosting the National Rally for Dignity in Schools.
In major cities across the country, advocates are calling for discipline reform in our schools. But the headquarters for the national campaign is right here in Pittsburgh, and supporters gathered at the Jeron Grayson Community Center Thursday to make their voices heard.
The goal of the campaign is to keep students from getting suspended so they stay in school and make positive life choices.
When kids aren’t in the classroom, the risk isn’t limited to just poor grades.
A dynamic known as “the school to prison pipeline” is a very real thing according to activists trying to change the way schools discipline students.
“We need to start getting this information out there,” said one activist. “We need to raise more conversations, get more parents involved, teachers involved.”
The “Dignity in Schools” campaign made Pittsburgh the host city for its national “Lift Us Up” rally, which is aimed at rethinking out-of-school suspensions.
“Not just saying this is going to happen, but they’re actually meeting with the staff and principals of the schools and saying, ‘We’re not going to stand for this any longer. We’re going to find some resolutions for our students,’” said Aimee Mangham, of the Education Rights Network.
Panelists say those missed days can lead to a lifetime of challenges.
“Policies and procedures in school districts all over the country that criminalize normal adolescent behavior, and essentially push students out of the school and into the juvenile justice and criminal justice system,” said Tiffany Sizemore-Thompson, one of the panelists at the conference.
“I have a 6-year-old who’s been forced out of several schools,” said Christopher Thompson, a parent. “So, I’m here, not just as a community leader, but also here as a parent who has a 6-year-old that’s concerned about his education experience,” said Christopher Thompson, a parent.
Parents were glad to hear Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Anthony Hamlet wants Pittsburgh to be a model for districts across the country.
“Everybody is here to see we’re lifting up our children not pushing them out,” said Mangham.
The hosting organization did some research. There were nearly 16,000 thousand missed days due to suspensions in Pittsburgh city schools alone last year.