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New group targeting unfair disciplinary actions in Arizona schools

(Public Domain Photo)

PHOENIX — Several community groups announced Wednesday that they had formed an organization to combat unfair disciplinary actions in Arizona schools.

Officials from the newly created Demand2Learn group said black and Hispanic children are eight times more likely to be expelled or suspended for minor rule infractions, such as dress-code violations.

The group also said other policies that have affected too many minority children in these groups include zero tolerance, asking students to voluntarily withdraw from school and referring them to law enforcement for minor offenses.

“The only requirement that you expel a kid, or you suspend a kid, is if it’s, typically, weapons or drugs,” Alessandra Soler, the executive director of the ACLU of Arizona, said. “Those aren’t the cases we’re seeing.

“We had a mom whose son was suspended for having an Afro. It violated the dress code. She shaved her son’s Afro, and then he got suspended for having a cross in his hair.”

Soler said some policies unfairly punish disabled children.

“They may be acting out in class — a lot of [the problems] are behavioral,” she said. “Inequity in education harms everyone. When you take away the opportunities an education affords a child, it hurts families and it hurts our communities.”

The campaign said it planned to collaborate with leaders to develop models that are committed to increasing student retention by 2020. Participating districts included Phoenix Union High School, Fowler Elementary and Pendergast Elementary.

The Phoenix Collegiate Academy, Arizona School for the Arts and Vista College Prep were also expected to be involved.

Demand to Learn has also partnered with community organizations, such as the Black Mothers Forum and the Arizona Latino School Board Foundation, to bring meaningful change to school policies.

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