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PLUGGING THE PIPELINE—Activists call for an end to Pittsburgh Public Schools discipline practices that disproportionately expel Black into the “school to prison pipeline.” (Photo by J.L. Martello)

PLUGGING THE PIPELINE—Activists call for an end to Pittsburgh Public Schools discipline practices that disproportionately expel Black into the “school to prison pipeline.” (Photo by J.L. Martello)

Pittsburgh Public School parents, students, teachers and community activists came together to call for an end to, “Push-Out,” disciplinary policies that remove kids from the classrooms. A rally was organized for those of the community who were concerned over harsh school disciplinary policies that push youth out of school.

“The action was in response to the district administration dismissing the list of recommendations summarily and without discussion,” Jennifer England of Pink Coat Communications said,

The rally took place Tuesday, May 26, at 5 p.m. Followed by a Board Meeting at 6 p.m. at Pittsburgh Public Schools 341 S. Bellefield Avenue.

 

PRISON BARS—Kids sit inside a makeshift jail handcuffed. (Photos by J.L. Martello)

PRISON BARS—Kids sit inside a makeshift jail handcuffed. (Photos by J.L. Martello)

More than 50 people attended. There was a variety of speakers during the rally; parents, teachers, students, clergy, experts on educational discipline, and state representatives. For example; Rev. Fred White of Kingdom Life Fellowship Church, Melanie Turney, PPS teacher; Parent, Carmella Jones; College Professor Jeff Shook; Parent Marchs Garland; Parent Pam Harbin; incoming School Board Member Moira Kaleida; and state Rep Ed Gainey.

Organizers ACTION United and the Center for Third World Organizing, are calling on the board to support disciplinary policies that work to keep students in school, correct behavior, and foster long term student success rather than feed the school to prison pipeline.

These policy recommendations were endorsed by the Great Public Schools Pittsburgh coalition, and were submitted to the administration on April 29. The administration has not yet acted on the recommendations.

Destiney Jones, 8 year old from the West End wears handcuffs to demonstrate against school to prison pipeline.

Destiney Jones, 8 year old from the West End wears handcuffs to demonstrate against school to prison pipeline.

Pittsburgh Public Schools have been pushing a campaign for students to, “Be There!” Schools themselves have been pushing students out by disciplinary policies quick to suspend or expel students for even minor infractions. Numerous schools have begun to work on reducing suspensions there is no cohesive, coherent, district wide effort at creating and implementing policies to specifically replace “Push-Out,” with a disciplinary policy focused on restoration measures.

Research studies show that harsh disciplinary codes and, “zero tolerance” policies reinforce bad behavior among students. African American and Latino students are disproportionately targeted by “Push-Out” policies. During the 2013-2014 academic school year nearly 75 percent of student suspensions were students of color.

“Both the District Administration and The School Board has now promised to consider and discuss the GPS recommendations. We will be following up with them at their June cementing. We would like to see new policies in place by the start of the 2015-2016 school year,” Jennifer England said.

 

IN CHAINS—Aquia Chambers, 17 year old  and Shakihya Ruffin, 16 year old, wear chains to rally against school to prison pipeline.

IN CHAINS—Aquia Chambers, 17 year old and Shakihya Ruffin, 16 year old, wear chains to rally against school to prison pipeline.

“ACTION United and GPS will continue to work to make sure that new disciplinary policies are created and implemented. We plan on following up with the board during their June meeting,” Carmella Jones, Regional Leader for ACTION United said. “I am organizing with others and working hard to change policies in the school district that pushes our students out of the educational system and into the juvenile criminal system. We demand that the school that the school district implement the recommendations developed by GPS and continue to work with us to improve the district schools’ culture and climate.

“We need to work together to make sure each student is not only academically prepared for school, but socially. That takes us all working together building trusting relationships with administrators, teachers, parents, and students.”

 

 

 

 

 

ONE OF THE MANY SPEAKERS—State Rep. Ed Gainey speaking at rally.

ONE OF MANY SPEAKERS—State Rep. Ed Gainey speaking at rally.

 

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