Education advocates from across New York call on Legislature to pass Solutions Not Suspensions bill
Education advocates across the state rallied at Mt. Olive Baptist Church on Buffalo’s East Side Thursday, calling on the New York State Legislature to pass the Judith S. Kaye Solutions Not Suspensions Act this year. Any delay, they say, will be detrimental to school children across the state.
While suspensions are down in Buffalo Public Schools, Community Health Network of Buffalo Youth Trainer Khadijah Hussein said root causes for suspensions continue to unaddressed.
“I know what it feels like to be bullied,” said Hussein, who graduated from Buffalo Public Schools and has a sibling currently enrolled. “I know what it feels like to go through mental illnesses depression and stuff, anxiety, and feel like no one understands, especially going to school and trying to explain to your teachers that I couldn't sleep last night, or my parents were arguing this morning before I had to come to school, or just the reality of what a lot of us go through.”
The rally for the state legislature to sign the bill comes after the New York State Education Department’s January report recommending eliminating suspensions in grades pre-Kindergarten through third, and incorporating more restorative practices broadly in schools across the state.
Reducing punitive forms of punishment is also an issue of equity We The Parents member, said Sam Radford.
“For eight years we have fought at the state level to get a uniform set of standards to make suspensions a last resort through the Judith Kaye Solutions Not Suspensions Act,” he said. “Knowing that [suspensions] have a devastating consequences on Black and brown children, children with disabilities, low-income children and children who are LGBTQ+, but the Legislature has not acted.”
Many advocates said the shift to a more holistic, restorative approach to discipline is a cultural one and will take a collaborative effort from everyone; state legislature, NYSED, school leaders, parents, students and teachers and passing the Solutions Not Suspensions Act is an important first step.