Too many minority kids in Nashville get suspended for disrupting class, and government central planners say it’s their job to equal everything out in terms of racial disparities.
For the sake of fairness, members of the Metro Nashville Public School System say they have a system that spares those minority students traditional types of punishment.
School officials identify the program as Positive and Safe Schools Advancing Greater Equity, or PASSAGE for short.
Online resources that supposedly describe PASSAGE offer few specifics.
Online material about PASSAGE contains phrases such as “holistic restorative models,” “social-emotional learning supports,” and “a culture of collective problem solving.”
Metro Nashville Schools spokeswoman Dawn Rutledge said she could not answer all of The Tennessee Star’s questions about PASSAGE Wednesday. She did offer a few details in an emailed response.
“We understand that while disruptive behavior is not solely tied to factors such as race, ethnicity or gender, we cannot ignore what the research and the data clearly tells us – when certain students from specific ethnic or racial groups are disciplined at higher levels, it contributes to higher dropout rates and perpetuates the school-to-prison pipeline,” Rutledge said.
“MNPS is committed to creating an equitable space where all students can learn and grow, and we have been aggressive in implementing restorative practices and social-emotional learning supports, in which the district has received national recognition.”
Members of the Metro Nashville Board of Education did not return The Star’s requests for comment Wednesday.
According to information on the school district’s website, Nashville participates in PASSAGE along with the three largest school districts in the country: New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago.
Another passage on the school district’s website said school officials “are committed to addressing the root causes of discipline problems.”
School system officials put out a press release about the program five years ago.
“Nationally, African-American students are three and a half times more likely to be suspended or expelled from school than white students, while Latino students are two times as likely,” the press release said.
“It’s an issue that contributes to the achievement gap among groups of students and one that must be changed for students to achieve.”
Rutledge told The Star she would answer more of The Star’s detailed questions within a realistic time frame.
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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “MNPS” by MNPS. Background Photo “Students in the Classroom” by MNPS.