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Published: Wed, March 26, 2008 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Tim Yovich

Protesters want school board to change zero tolerance for fighting

A councilman called the effort to change the school disciplinary policy an ‘uprising.’

WARREN — Leaders of an effort to reduce the expulsion rate in city schools vowed to get the board of education to change its zero-tolerance policy against in-school fighting, even if it takes ousting board members from office.

They made their feelings known Tuesday during a rally sponsored by the West Side Community Coalition at New Freedom Missionary Baptist Church attended by about 100.

“If the board won’t listen, they can be taken out of office,” Fred Harris, former city safety-service director, told the group.

Councilman James A. “Doc” Pugh, D-6th, called on the group to become united so it can force the school board to change its policy because good students are being expelled.

Part of the problem, Pugh noted, is that the district administration is hiring teachers from the suburbs who haven’t dealt with the “black experience.”

Pugh, however, who termed the school district policy “selective discipline,” said the group must make the district the best it can possibly be for all students.

“We’re not against the policy. It’s how the policy is being administered” that troubles the group, Pugh said. “The crime doesn’t fit the punishment.”

He characterized the effort as an “uprising.”

“This is serious business,” said Ronald Fowlis, president of Warren-Trumbull County NAACP. “It will cripple our kids. It will give them complexes,” he said of the policy.

About a dozen ministers began questioning the zero-tolerance policy after a fight at Warren G. Harding High involving three girls. Two of them were suspended and withdrew from school so they wouldn’t be expelled. They are now attending Life Skills Center so the older sister, a senior, can graduate this year.

Eleanor Williamson, great-aunt of the sisters, said their mother won’t appeal because she is fearful the senior won’t graduate.

The third girl, who has been described as a good student with no history of fighting, has been expelled.

The Rev. Alton Merrell Sr., pastor of New Jerusalem Fellowship Church, said the group’s primary concern is to get the expelled student back in the classroom so she can graduate but also work at getting the policy changed.

“We’re in this all together,” the Rev. Mr. Merrell said. “I’ve never seen the pastors come together as now.”

A group of ministers wanted to talk with schools Superintendent Kathryn Hellweg about the issue last Wednesday, but Hellweg called the police and the ministers left the board’s Monroe Street offices.

Hellweg has said discipline is administered on a case-by-case basis, but she wouldn’t discuss the fight involving the three girls.

Mr. Merrell said if the ministers can’t get a meeting with the school administration, he questioned how the students and their parents are being treated.

“That’s why we’re hot,” Mr. Merrell said. “We think we should be heard.”

He told the group that if a student is chronically fighting, then discipline is required.

At-large city Councilwoman Helen Rucker said council has changed its rules allowing more people to speak at council sessions. The school board has limited the number because it hasn’t been challenged.

A second rally will be at 6 p.m. today at New Jerusalem Fellowship, 2555 Palmyra Road.

yovich@vindy.com


Comments

1Education_Vote(17 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

The "rally" didn't look too well attended. But it was covered well on the news media. Sigh. What does it take to get media coverage of events? These guys are experts, but just try to get a few seconds for a positive event.

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2pray4usa(1 comment)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

It makes no sence that these church leaders would send the message to these girls that you can do what you want and we will get you out of trouble. The school system has enough problems and if these trouble makers can't follow the rules then they should be put in the streets. The streets will take care of them and the rest of the kids can get their education. I don't think the school went far enough. Where are the police reports and what have they been charged with?

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3Bull_Chip(170 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

--Part of the problem, Pugh noted, is that the district administration is hiring teachers from the suburbs who haven’t dealt with the “black experience.”—

I read and re-read this several times in an attempt to discern what was being said here. First of all, what does “teachers from the suburbs” mean? Could it be that only teachers from certain demographic groups are properly equipped to teach in Warren City schools? It certainly could not refer to race, the ministers involved have assured the public that this is not a race based issue. So is it being said that academic command and the ability to convey knowledge of the chosen subject is not the primary criteria for selecting teachers? Are certain social agendas of a higher priority than the education of the students in a safe environment? I would think the NEA would have some kind of response to this concept. Their silence could only signify their tacit agreement to this concept.

Secondly, what does the phrase “black experience” mean and what is its relationship to the situation at question? Does it mean that in certain demographic groups violence is to be expected, tolerated, accepted and even encouraged? Specifically what does “black” mean? Since it was not capitalized, I can only assume that it is not a race based phrase. Who can have this experience? How do you know if you have had this experience?

Please, help an old guy understand what is being said.

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4arosepa(7 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

I wonder who's relative was expelled to cause such a stir. This ad hoc group was unheard from for the past several years that the policy has been in place.

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