Letters to the Editor

Letter: A child left behind

Thursday, March 5, 2015

To the Editor:

The recent article “Black R.I. students see high suspension rates” in the “Playground to Prison” series addresses a serious problem that the legislature in this state needs to address now. The writer quotes an ACLU report, “The School-to-Prison Pipeline in Black and White,” which claims that between 2004 and 2012, Rhode Island public schools issued 17,000 suspensions. Seventeen percent of black children were suspended — more than in any other racial category.

In response, Senate President Teresa Paiva-Weed, D-Newport, and Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello, D-Cranston, were quoted as concerned by “the troubling issues raised by the ACLU report” and the need to “enact policies that treat all persons fairly, equally and without discrimination.” But Chairman of the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education Patrick Guida has cited the lack of evidence and public comment that school suspensions are “not being administered in an equitable way.”

So, what is it? Is racism rampant in the administration of justice in our schools, or is this statistic merely a speed bump in the larger net of Rhode Island’s social ills?

It is clear to me that the link between today’s public school suspensions and the potential of criminality is a lack of options available to Rhode Island parents and their children. While it is not necessarily true that Rhode Island’s troubled students of color are on a “pipeline to prison,” as the ACLU puts it, these children are being pushed aside and victimized by an entrenched welfare state and a government-run “cookie cutter” school system that doesn’t really care if a disorderly child winds up in prison as a young adult.

Educational choice is the better option for Rhode Island children of all races. If a school is failing a child, an involved parent should have the option of removing the child from the state school and finding a private school that better addresses both the child’s needs and the parent’s values. Unlike the “lose-lose” proposition of disrupting the order of the classroom or warehousing difficult children, a state-funded education savings account is “win-win”; it empowers parents — any parents from any economic class — to make the best choice for their kids, and it challenges public schools to compete fairly with the open market of educational ideas and plans.

The Bright Today Scholarship Bill, which will be sponsored by Rep. Ray Hull, D-Providence, Rep. Mike Chippendale, D-Coventry, Sen. Marc Cote, D-Woonsocket, North Smithfield and Sen. Nicholas Kettle, R-Coventry, Foster, Scituate and West Greenwich, proposes to create in this state the most innovative school choice program in this country. I encourage everyone who wishes to learn more to visit its website for more information.

Scott G. Lloyd

Database Administrator

One Comment

  1. Anonymous says:

    I am a high school dropout with a successful career. I have no regrets on dropping out. Does School Administration ever think to ask these kids if they even care about school? I think not, and more so, I think they would already know the answer. The root to this problem is that most things these children experience do not incentivize going to school. Why study when I can try being the next PewDiePie?

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