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Children's Agenda: new city school policy on suspensions is working, but continued focus needed

The Children's Agenda

The report released on Thursday is from The Children’s Agenda, a locally-based non-profit organization that advocates on behalf of children in the Rochester area.

That report is called:  “Breaking the School-to-Prison Pipeline: How School Climate Supports Academic Success.” It analyzes data from the last five years while the city school district worked to reform disciplinary policy.

Eammon Scanlon is an education policy analyst at The Children’s Agenda. He says that suspensions in the Rochester City School District saw a 33 percent drop in the 2017-18 school year compared to the last couple of years, and he says that’s a good thing.

Credit The Children's Agenda
Total number of courses failed in a given year by all students who received at least one suspension during that same school year. Dates include 2013-2014 to 2017-2018 school years. Data provided by RCSD.

“Suspensions remove kids from the classroom and the longer they’re removed the more damaging it is academically, so if we can reduce long-term suspension, kids being out for weeks, sometimes months, that is a huge impact for them academically, just being able to be in the classroom more,” Scanlon told WXXI News.

Scanlon says there needs to be alternatives to suspensions, such as restorative practices that help children recognize the  harm that they are doing to others and find ways to help them make amends in ways that don’t involve missing class time.

One of the recommendations from the Children's Agenda is for the city school board to find a way to maintain 10 staff positions that help students with those restorative practices. Those jobs were created three years ago with a state grant, and that grant will end after the current school year.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.