WASHINGTON—Statement of AFT President Randi Weingarten on the Solutions Not Suspensions effort to confront the serious issue of out-of-school suspensions.
"Children cannot learn if they are not in the classroom. Nor can they or their peers learn, or teachers teach, in a school environment that is not safe, stable and engaging. The Solutions Not Suspensions coalition is boldly shining a light on a problem that is discussed too little and ignored too often.
"The facts are disturbing. According to a Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles report, 17 percent of African-American students and 13 percent of students with disabilities have been suspended. And school districts continue to eliminate school counselors, mentors and other services that are crucial to helping students succeed inside and outside the classroom.
"We cannot turn our backs on millions of children. This is a serious issue that demands a serious national response. Our failure to collectively address the issue of out-of-school suspensions and the lack of high-quality alternative placements hurts not just the kids who are suspended; it directly impacts all our communities.
"We appreciate the fact that Solutions Not Suspensions has made the AFT a part of its ongoing discussion about how best to address this issue. While we have shared with the coalition our concern about the effects of a moratorium without viable alternatives—a concern exacerbated by deep and extreme budget cuts—we understand the urgency that compels the effort. We all have a shared responsibility to confront this issue, including building and district administrators.
"The AFT looks forward to working with Solutions Not Suspensions and others committed to confronting problems associated with out-of-school suspension, particularly its disproportionate effect on some students, and to building school environments that help all students succeed.
"Many of our affiliates are already engaged in this work. To support their efforts and those of their communities, the AFT will establish a leadership committee to lead the union's response; survey AFT affiliates to gain a greater understanding of their school and community needs to target support; collaborate with Solutions Not Suspensions and other stakeholders on policy decisions regarding discipline; provide targeted professional development programs, technical assistance and funding to support affiliate efforts; develop an online resource bank for educators and community members; and host community events to raise awareness and develop intervention strategies."