The Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) unanimously accepted a series of recommendations from the Black Student Success (BSS) Task Force to address school discipline practices that were disproportionately affecting Black students most acutely in elementary schools at the Board of Education meeting on Thursday, June 23.
The African American Parent Council (AAPC) established the Black Student Success Task Force at the advice of Superintendent Dr. Brian McDonald after raising the issue of high rates of Black elementary school suspensions in a meeting earlier this spring.
The AAPC moved swiftly to assemble a broad coalition of parents, educators, students, administrators, district leadership and community stakeholders to participate in this endeavor. Over the last 10 weeks, the newly formed task force met to analyze data, review current district practices, assess available district resources and develop recommendations on policy change as well as identify needed staffing, training and services to mitigate the disproportionality that currently exists. The BSS Task Force was facilitated by local educator, community advocate and PUSD alumna, Patrice Marshall McKenzie.
The recommendations accepted by the Board included only allowing out-of-school suspensions in grades Transitional Kindergarten (TK) - 5th grade in incidents where violence results in injury or incidents that lead to mandatory expulsion, in accordance with the California Educational Code section 48915 (c). Additionally, the recommendation also included limiting out-of-school suspensions to not more than two (2) days and provide restorative intervention and practices to students to facilitate a comprehensive return to campus experience. The primary objective of the Black Student Success Task Force was to provide recommendations to reduce the exposure of Black students to harsh discipline practices and increase the instructional time that Black students spend in classrooms learning.
The Pasadena School Board also adopted a motion to accept the Task Force’s recommendations for additional staffing and district wide training resources that will begin in the 2022-23 school year.
The Task Force’s recommendations will be codified in the District’s board policies and administrative regulations in August and implemented for the start of the next academic year. The Board will also receive quarterly updates on suspension data as one of the progress monitoring mechanisms of the change in policy.
“All of these years for decades, things keep changing for all kinds of groups in the community and all kinds of groups in society, but for Black students in public education, things have remained largely the same,” said Pasadena School Board Member Michelle Richardson-Bailey. “We would be doing our students an injustice if we didn’t get every single able-bodied employee, board member, staff person, parent to come alongside us with this and support change for our Black students.”
“The AAPC, District, administrators, teachers, PUSD families, students, and community partners engaged in these thoughtful endeavors in response to persistent overrepresentation of Black children in disciplinary measures. While suspensions have declined over time, disproportionality remains,” said Nia Bailey, President of the African American Parent Council. “We will make our case for policy changes for the upcoming school year, beginning with students TK-5th grade, where disproportionality is highest. Suspensions are not harmless and can result in feelings of isolation, disengagement, frustration, and difficulty socially and academically. We all want schools that are safe and conducive to learning. The complication lies in how we achieve that. We will disrupt persistent disproportionality in suspensions and keep our kids in the classroom.”