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GWEN’S GIRLS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR KATHI ELLIOTT speaks to anti-suspension supporters during a June 19 rally outside the district administration building in Oakland.

To suspend, or not to suspend—it’s an issue that’s hotter than Pittsburgh’s summer heat.

Just a day prior to the Pittsburgh Public Schools’ latest stance on Pre-Kindergarten to fifth grade suspensions for minor or non-violent offenses, the signs outside the administration building read, “Lift us up, don’t push us out,” “Educate, don’t incarcerate,” “Counselors, not cops,” and “Solutions, not suspensions.”

More than 50 people— many of them members of the Education Rights Network—held a June 19 rally in front of the Bellefield Avenue building in Oakland, hoping to draw support for eliminating all suspensions for non-violent offenses for Kindergarten through fifth grade in City schools.

“What we’re seeing is that suspensions don’t work, we all know that they don’t work, it doesn’t do anything to improve behavior, teach any new skills, or solve any problems,” said Pamela Harbin of Education Rights Network. “It’s just one of those outdated things that they use in education.”

According to the advocacy group, K-5 students in City schools missed 3,160 days of school due to out-of-school suspensions during the 2015-16 school year. And students of color were suspended four times as often as White students. “This is urgent. We can’t wait,” Harbin told the New Pittsburgh Courier. “Kids’ lives are being impacted, and the lives that are being impacted are disproportionately Black students and students with disabilities.”

On June 21, PPS spokeswoman Ebony Pugh told the Courier that the School Board “approved a resolution that directs District Administration to convene a working group to develop recommendations for supports and services needed to implement a ban on the use of out of school suspensions for non-violent minor discipline infractions with young students.”

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