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Wilmington-area group Love Our Children pushes to end suspensions for young children

Bethanie Simms
Veronica McLaurin-Brown with the Love Our Children group.

On Tuesday evening, a crowd gathered before the New Hanover County Board of Education meeting. As Board members arrived, members of the Love Our Children organization discussed alternatives to out-of-school suspensions.

The group of parents, educators, and activists chanted, "end suspension now!" They hope to end suspension for students ages 4 through 7 -- with a few exceptions, like bringing a gun, or drugs to school, or committing a violent assault. One of the group’s leaders, Peter Rawitsch led the chants.

“And to be clear, a suspension is when a child is not allowed to be in school. That child is not allowed to sing songs in the music room, shoot hoops during PE paint in the art room, or even listen as the librarian reads aloud a chapter book," Rawitsch said.

Bethanie Simms
Peter Rawitsch, one of the leaders of the Love Our Children group, at Tuesday's meeting.

One of the objectives in New Hanover’s Board of Education Strategic Plan for 2016-2020 was to eliminate elementary school suspensions. Love Our Children members argue that not enough work has been to achieve this goal.

The group also claims that ending out-of-school suspension is a nonpartisan issue. But according to Veronica McLaurin-Brown, it is also a racial and equity one.

“But we also know that there are a disproportionate number of black children, African American, and boys, especially are harmed the most," McLaurin-Brown said.

She says that the end goal of the organization is to end suspension for students pre-k through twelfth grade. But ending suspensions for ages four through seven is a good place to start.