Officials working to address 'discipline gap' in schools - WSMV News 4

Officials working to address 'discipline gap' in Nashville schools

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It's a nationwide problem and Nashville is no exception. But Metro Nashville Public Schools is trying to make a difference.

Black students are three and a half times more likely to be suspended or expelled from school than white students.

Last year in Metro Nashville almost 12,000 students were suspended. Three-fourths of those students were black, and of the hundreds who were expelled, 76 percent were black and only 13 percent were white.

"What we want to do is reduce the gap. We want to eliminate the gap," said Dr. Jesse Register, director of Metro schools.

To do that, Nashville joined the big cities of Chicago, Los Angeles and New York on a program named PASSAGE, which stands for Positive and Safe Schools Advancing Greater Equity.

Metro Schools also signed onto President Barack Obama's plan, "My Brother's Keeper," which outlines 11 points to keep minorities in the classroom.

"We should be obsessed about our kids going to school and staying in school," said Mayor Karl Dean.

"When I was a public defender, I noticed that the kids I was representing just weren't going to school, and you can't take a passive attitude toward that. We want our kids to be in school, so we created an attendance center," Dean added.

That is just one step toward change.

On Wednesday, educators, law enforcement, advocacy groups and families shared data with these initiatives.

Bottom line: It will be a community effort.

"Making sure that we have a deeper partnership with the student and a deeper partnership with parents, so collectively and collaboratively, all students know the expectations. And we're making sure we are not so heavy-handed with our discipline that ultimately we hurt children academically," said Ron Woodard, principal of Maplewood High School.

Educators say it may take up to a year and a half for these programs to make a difference in the "discipline gap," but schools will start implementing the programs a couple weeks into the new school year.

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