Reform Within the Process

April 8, 2014

Below, representatives from the senior class of E-Cubed Academy in Rhode Island reflect on their GC experience, from choosing their focus issue in September 2013, to winning two awards at Fall Civics Day, to carrying their project all the way to Providence Public School District Superintendent, Susan Lusi.

Our group has been working with Generation Citizen and our Brown University Democracy Coaches since September 2013. The community issue our group chose to address was high suspension rates and lack of student voice within the disciplinary process. Our Democracy Coach, Ian Shank, led us to second place at Rhode Island Civics Day, earning the College Change Maker and Grassroots Change awards. After Civics Day, we decided to continue working on this project. Over the next few weeks, we are presenting our peer jury project to the Superintendent of Providence Public Schools for implementation district- wide as the district reforms its Student Code of Conduct.

Changing the community has sparked a desire to change even more as our minds expand to recognize the plethora of issues in our world. One day it’s lowering suspension rates, the next it’s tackling police brutality. No nation is without flaws, and as citizens in the United States we must recognize that it is our responsibility to shape our future. Our Generation Citizen project has led us to this will to radically change something we have total control of. Youth have the potential to participate in so much more to demand a change in the status quo of education in the United States. Discriminatory policies have resulted in the inequality of wealth, leaving an education system that is seen as a privilege, not a right. Students stuck in the cycle of poverty deserve the opportunity to lift themselves and their families out, a bridge offered by a college education. It is our desire to see students prosper no matter their circumstances.

Mitigating high suspension rates in Providence is critical to ensuring every student is offered an opportunity to better their situation. As students, we are aware of the detrimental effects suspensions have on the academic abilities of young people. Preparing youth for higher education begins in classrooms. The importance of this project doesn’t stop at making statistics look good, it’s for the secure grasp each student will have on their future. This program encourages students to discipline themselves to stray from distractions outside of school. We want Providence to become a national model for the disciplinary process in high schools. It is imperative to develop younger minds with affection for education, not a stigma associated with attending school and fearing suspension for minor offenses that every student has participated in. Students shouldn’t be punished for being students – a rebellious nature is key in the radical change of society.

The combined experience of the students involved in dealing with the disciplinary process has had a profound effect on the decision to pursue reform within the process. Being upperclassmen, we understand the reason why students misbehave. The infatuation with zero-tolerance policies has only exacerbated the many pressures young students are facing. Therefore, we believe that the responsibility of the seniors at E-Cubed is to uplift the underclassmen to prepare themselves for the demanding college process from day one. Education is the spark that ignites the desire for a change not only in the community, but the world. Young people must begin preparing for a world that is drastically changing every day considering we are next in line to tackle the problems that plague our nation, and it begins with community change.

Our most recent action involved meeting a special taskforce created by the Superintendent, consisting of administrators and leaders within the Rhode Island Department of Education, including the head of the Providence Public School District Office of Student Affairs. We are currently preparing for a presentation to Providence Public School District Superintendent Susan Lusi. The results of the meeting can change the entire scope of dealing with violations within the student Code of Conduct and result in restorative practices used to reduce suspensions and recidivism, keeping students within schools and restoring relationships in schools.

– Senior Class at E-Cubed Academy, Rhode Island

Generation Citizen is a nonpartisan, 501(c)3 tax exempt organization which does not endorse candidates; our goal is to engage our staff, participants, and stakeholders in political and civic action on issues that matter to them personally and in their communities. The opinions expressed in this blog post are those of the writer alone and do not reflect the opinions of Generation Citizen.

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