FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 26, 2017
CONTACT: Ingris Moran, [email protected]
Community members call for formal plan to implement expansion of restorative justice programs to middle schools as new data is presented about middle school discipline
ALEXANDRIA, VA – On Wednesday, Tenants and Workers United, (TWU) in partnership with Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) and the Alexandria Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Advancement Project, hosted a community forum exploring student discipline policies and the implementation of restorative practices in city schools.
During the forum, ACPS leadership explored new discipline data and discussed next steps in reducing suspensions at the middle school level. The event marked the district’s response to community pressure and a multi-year restorative justice campaign, led by Tenants and Workers United and the Alexandria NAACP, highlighting persistent racial discipline disparities between students of color and their white counterparts. The positive impact of restorative justice programming at T.C. Williams High School has spurred advocates to urge the program’s extension into ACPS middle schools where suspension levels remain the highest. Attendees also explored how ACPS can build upon initial progress from school discipline reforms for all students.
“We have seen a lot of changes ACPS, not only in restorative programming, but also in staffing,” said Evelin Urrutia, executive director of Tenants and Workers United. “While we are really excited to see the progress, we also know there is a long way to go to ensure restorative practices are implemented right. We need a formal plan. At the end of the day, we are serving students. We must work collaboratively to ensure that every student has the same opportunity and show that it doesn’t matter where you come from or what color you are, you will get the education you deserve.’’
“The students that are getting suspended more are Black and Hispanic…and just for small reasons,” said Gabriel Palma Moran, a student at George Washington Middle School and a youth member of TWU who was in attendance with his grandmother Dina Martinez. “One concern I have as a student is how much time would it takes us to expand restorative justice in middle school.”
“I have always come to these meetings because I disagree with taking kids out of school,” said Gabriel’s grandmother, Dina Martinez. “When I came to this country, I had a friend, a young girl named Juanita, and Carlitos, now they’re adults, but they kicked them out of George Washington. I love them like my own because I took care of them. They felt really bad because they had been kicked out, and it was hard for them to keep up with their work, but they let them back in, and thank God they passed the grade and graduated.”
Ingris Moran, Lead Organizer for Tenants and Workers United, added: “We are grateful to have had this forum to discuss the very important issue of restorative practices in city schools and the need to expand and formally implement these practices in middle schools.”
Tenants and Workers United builds power of low-income communities of color – primarily immigrants – to create changes that positively impact the quality of our lives in Northern Virginia. We organize and support people to be agents of change in their own lives by addressing the issues they care about.