Gabby Goeglein and Olivia Smith table in C-Street for their cause League of Education Voters. The League is an advocacy group pushing for reforms in education, primarily disciple in order to create a more healthy and encouraging educational environment.
Most students wouldn’t complain about having a day or two off from school. But for middle school students, suspensions can do much more harm than good.
The League of Education Voters (LEV), a group with a mission to reform the Seattle School system, is working on a project to educate Washingtonians on the importance of ending the practice of suspension and expulsion as appropriate means of discipline.
LEV is a local organization founded in 2001 by volunteers with a passion for improving school systems. They focus on providing equal opportunities for all students to succeed.
“Our vision is that every student in Washington state receives an excellent public education that provides the opportunity for success,” reads the LEV mission.
LEV advocates for positive funding and policy decisions by working with the Seattle School Board as well as Washington state legislators.
For the past few weeks, LEV has been seen on campus in the Student Center, where Seattle University students have been tabling on behalf of the organization.
According to Emily Downing, a student who has been involved with LEV through volunteering, stopping school suspensions is a key factor in improving the school system.
“One of the biggest things that we’re looking into is how Seattle Public Schools don’t have a policy that brings expelled students back into the school system,” said Downing. “So if students are expelled, they’re basically out of the system, unless they make an effort and an exception is made to somehow bring them back.”
Stop School Suspensions hopes to educate people on the negative effects of school suspensions, as well as working closely with the Seattle School Board to pass legislation that would change the rules within the Seattle school system.
“Schools are places for students to learn, but students need to believe that they belong there and that learning is engaging and purposeful,” said Dr. Margit McGuire, program director of the master in teaching program at Seattle U.
“If students don’t find the learning personally purposeful and engaging, they sometimes go awry. Of course there are extreme cases where students must be suspended because of safety issues and those usually related to issues outside of school—poverty, mental health issues and so forth. In such cases a more comprehensive approach is needed that goes well beyond the schoolhouse doors,” said McGuire.
According to a statement by LEV, students of color and low-income students are “disproportionately disciplined in Washington’s schools.” The problem is that these forms of discipline are likely to include suspension and expulsion, which also increases the likelihood for students to drop out of school.
Students at Seattle U have gotten involved with LEV through a leadership seminar that is part of the Seattle U Youth Initiative. This two-credit class helps to educate college students about the faults of the Washington school system.
“The class has a lot to do with our poor education system,” said Vanessa Lam, a freshman who is currently enrolled in the SUYI leadership seminar. “I knew that our education system is horrible, but the class really helped me understand the specifics, like where we go wrong, what we need to do and what we should do.”
Involving Seattle U students with the Seattle community is at the heart of the SUYI’s mission. SUYI strives to unite Seattle U with the community in order to reach its ultimate goal of improving the educational opportunities for low-income youth.
“In the class we learned a lot about how being a minority, especially an immigrant, affects your academic achievements,” Lam said. “A low-income community doesn’t provide the resources for the students that they need.”
Stop School Suspensions is a great example of the efforts that can be made to level the playing field for low-income and minority students. Although it is just one of many projects in the works through LEV, it is the central focus of the leadership seminar here at Seattle U.
On May 8, from 7 to 9 p.m., a panel of specialists will present at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center. Its focus will be on defining restorative justice and informing the audience on how to restore the public school systems.
“Take this class,” Lam said. “I want students to take it and see it for themselves. I love this class.”
Alaina may be reached at [email protected]