Speaking With One Voice Press Statement on Education

Collaborating Organizations: NAACP Nashville Branch, IMF Peniel, Urban League of Middle Tennessee, Center for Community Change, Urban Epicenter, Tennessee Black Children’s Institute, Disproportionate Minority Contact and Confinement, 100 Black Women, Tennessee Immigration and Refugee Rights Coalition, Gideon’s Army Grassroots Army for Children and the Metropolitan Nashville City Council Black Caucus.

We have gathered today to bring attention to an issue that we feel directly impacts the education and the very lives of the African American community, especially the lives of young, African American Males.  The issue that we want to bring attention to is that of increased suspensions of black males in public schools.

In an article released on August 6th, the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights released a study stating that black students are four times more likely to be suspended than other students.  The report stated that nine middle schools in Nashville have suspended more than half of their black students during the course of the school year.  The report further stated that six elementary schools suspended only black students.

It was pointed out that, in certain Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools, suspension rates for African American boys has been as high as 60%.  This alarming statistic is further punctuated by the remarkably lower rates of 10-13% of white male suspensions in the same schools.

We stand here today in solidarity, ready to wage a battle for the lives of our boys.  We are shouting in the hope that our voices will bring greater scrutiny on this issue.  We believe that these suspension practices are rooted in a lack of cultural competence, management skills and investment in keeping children in the classroom and not casting them out.  If left unchecked, these practices will continue without control and will further diminish opportunities for our boys to experience any measure of school and life success.

We are asking for justice.  We are asking for action and we are organizing so that we can monitor reform efforts as we formulate strategies to address these concerns.  More specifically, this group will implement the following action items over the next six weeks:

  1. We will conduct a more critical review of zero tolerance and other policies that undergird current suspension and drop out rates.
  2. We will host a public hearing to record the effect on children and families who have been directly affected by increased suspensions.
  3. We will study proposed reform initiatives intended to address school climate, teacher quality and classroom management issue to determine a strategy by which to monitor and track effectiveness of new practices on decreasing school suspension rates.
  4. We will use the data to formulate our specific requests for input to the policies and practices that relate to this issue at the administrative and board level.