New bill would address unfair school punishments that target minority students

The schools would use the grant money to invest in counselors, social workers and mental health professionals for students.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A new bill is being pushed that would stop unfair punishments in school that largely target minority students and lead to the school to prison pipeline.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley is co-sponsoring the Ending Punitive Unfair, School-Based Harm that is Overt and Unresponsive to Trauma (PUSHOUT) Act.

If approved, the Ending PUSHOUT Act would give $2.5 billion in new federal grants to states and schools that ban suspensions and expulsions for kids in fifth grade and below.

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"We need to radically reimagine our school communities," Pressley said. "Schools should be the safest place for our young people."

A recent documentary titled "PUSHOUT: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools" addresses the issue.

While black students make up less than 16% of the population, they account for almost 40 percent of students suspended from school, according to a 2018 Government Accountability report.

"I remember the first detention I got," Adaku Onyeka-Crawford with the National Women's Law Center, said. "I was 11 years old. I was a sixth-grade student in honor's math and I thought I had an inciteful question about a math problem."

The schools would use the grant money to invest in counselors, social workers and mental health professionals for students.

"What preschooler deserves to be suspended" asked Joanne Smith with Girls for Gender Equality.
The grant money is also for schools that stop policies that keep kids out of the classroom for breaking minor rules like tardiness or dress code violations.

"Now we're putting in place incentives around decriminalization and de-incarceration," Pressley said.