Group criticizes Gwinnett school district’s discipline policy

About two dozen residents and some students marched through downtown Lawrenceville Wednesday evening to criticize parts of the Gwinnett County school district’s student disciplinary policies.

The demonstrators complained Gwinnett and other Georgia school districts are suspending, expelling and arresting too many students. Protest organizer Marlyn Tillman cited statistics asserting Georgia spends about ten times as much money a year to incarcerate a student than to educate a student.

“Students should be supported. We should have counselors (in schools), not cops,” Tillman said during a rally.

Lawrenceville resident Anthony James, who is involved in the school district’s mentoring program, echoed many of the concerns.

“We should be embracing these kids,” he said in an interview.

The demonstrators also highlighted racial disparities in student discipline. Gwinnett suspends a disproportionate percentage of African-American students, school district data shows. Gwinnett created a mentorship program for at-risk African-American students a few years ago in response to the data.

Tillman said she and others hope to soon meet with Gwinnett school district administrators to demand changes such as no longer arresting students for fighting in school.

Gwinnett has adopted a framework used by many school districts nationwide called Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports that encourages schools to find different ways to improve classroom behavior. State data shows Gwinnett suspended 17 percent fewer students from school than it did five years ago.

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