School suspensions and expulsions
Education is a public good. Students have the chance to build the knowledge and skills that they hope will serve as a foundation to a lifetime of achievement. Adults hope that this education will benefit us in the future, as we look forward to their company as co-workers and neighbors.
The goal of education in a democracy is to create responsible, conscientious citizens who feel a sense of obligation to their community. Our school system plays a vital role in this education.
Unfortunately, we often fall short of this ideal. In particular, students who are suspended or expelled from school are less likely to complete high school, more likely to be arrested and more likely to be in contact with the criminal justice system within a year of forced leave.
Troublingly, studies have shown that minority students and students with disabilities are far more likely than others to end up on the wrong end of school disciplinary practices. (You may access these studies by the National Institutes of Health at bit.ly/2m3ymqO.)
The Lynchburg City School system’s policies state that suspensions and expulsions should be used only as a last resort. I believe this is true. But does the school system have adequate resources (counseling, alternative programs) to ensure that suspension or expulsion do not become the only options available?
When students feel like their community’s schools have failed them, what motivates them to give back to that community? I encourage everyone reading this letter to attend the School Board meeting Oct. 1 at 5 p.m. in the administration building on Court Street, to participate in the work of solving this problem.
WILLIAM JUDGE BROWNING