Testimony of Kristin Luebbert to the BOE, November 21, 2019

Good Evening, My name is Kristin Luebbert.  I am a teacher, parent, community member, and member of the PFT and the Caucus of Working Educators. I come before you tonight to speak on an issue that is crucial for our youngest students, their families, and the teachers and staff that serve them.

I want to ask you about the K-2 suspension ban and the supports we need to put this in place to make it truly effective for our students.  To be clear, I believe strongly in the K-2 suspension ban–I have spoken on record in support of it. I believe that it is best for our students and families.

But I do not believe that this approach can be at all effective in supporting students, their families, and school communities when it simply consists of a suspension ban that offers no alternatives and supports to students who are living with trauma and its effects.

I have too many colleagues who teach K-2 students who are living with such trauma that they routinely throw things around classrooms, physically assault both classmates and school staff, and act out in other ways that are dangerous to themselves and other students. Many K-2 teachers have had to institute protocols in which they evacuate the classroom with the class while one distressed student is temper-tantruming and throwing items all around the room. Needless to say, this causes trauma to both the upset student AND all of their classmates. Students who act in this manner are clearly crying out for help in one of the only ways they can–and we are morally obligated to help them–not just ignore their cries for help.

A suspension ban that offers no services and supports is akin to placing a band-aid over a gushing wound–it simply does not address the root of the problem.  Like far too many district initiatives, the ban was instituted with great fanfare–but there is no plan, no support services, no funds, and no oversight from Assistant Superintendents.  All of our Elementary Schools need more school counselors, social workers, and mental health services that will support our students living with trauma. Until we can truly support our students that are crying out for help with the services they–and all the members of the school community–need, the K-2 suspension ban is nothing more than an empty public relations move: it sounds good, but has no true meaning or effect.

Please designate funds to provide needed services to our students instead of allocating endless thousands for more unneeded outsourced programs.