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Suspending suspensions: One of many ideas floated by St. Paul equity committee

The St. Paul Public School district's Equity Committee presented their ideas to the community on Tuesday.

ST PAUL, Minn. — As the restorative practices coordinator at Central High School in St. Paul, William Hill has been having a lot of big picture conversations about his school district.

"St. Paul Public Schools had the district equity committee, a group of individuals compiled of staff, students and community members as well as parents," Hill explained. "It was just an opportunity for us to talk about inequities we face in SPPS."

That committee, after much discussion, presented their recommendations to the community Tuesday. They tackled a wide array of challenges presented before them.

"It talked about our teachers, needing more racial and cultural awareness support," Hill said. "It also talked about the lack of teachers of color that we have in our district, and then we also talked about trying to figure out how we can better serve our communities of color and multi-lingual families."

Of all those challenges, Hill was assigned to a subject he was passionate about.

"We noticed that there was a trend that our African American males are disproportionately suspended for similar offenses that their counterparts would have," he said. "And we just felt like it was a great opportunity to dive into that data and look at the context of where does that show up, where doesn't that show up."

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Hill said he and his group encouraged the district to make a shift in paradigm.

He's not advocating for no repercussions, but are suspensions good for anyone?

"It doesn't align with our mission and vision and we're supposed to be inspiring our students to think critically, to achieve their dreams and change the world," Hill said. "If they're not in our care and they're at home, there is absolutely no way we're having them in opportunities to think critically. We assume they're thinking about their behavior and how to fix it when they come back, but we don't know for a fact if they're thinking about those things."

Hill said the proposal to eventually end all suspensions, was one among numerous other out-of-the-box ideas that were brought forth by the committee.

Adding that he's excited to see how the equity committee will continue to better the district.

"Do our policies match our purpose? Do our actions on how we approach things? do those things try to match what we're trying to do in the end?" he said. "There was a lot of great proposals last night, but the one I was a part of, I'm definitely passionate about. Especially being an African American male, seeing my young people not necessarily be able to be at school, it does definitely hurt. It hit the heart space, and so – I'm honored and humbled to be a part of that group that was tackling that one issue of many."

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