Suspensions spell disaster
This week’s article “Durham Public Schools wanted to reduce suspensions. Instead they’re soaring.” did well to point out that despite a revised Code of Student Conduct, Durham Public Schools saw suspension numbers rise steeply during the 2016-17 school year.
What the article failed to emphasize is how suspensions have disastrous consequences for students including missed instruction time, social and emotional stigma, and an increased risk of dropping out and court involvement. These consequences are not felt equally given that, in the 2015-16 school year, Durham’s black students were 8.7 more likely to get suspended than white students. This reality is unacceptable.
District leadership has expressed a desire to address these problems but, clearly, much more needs to be done. For example, Durham could follow the lead of cities like Seattle and Minneapolis by placing a moratorium on elementary-school suspensions. This would have a huge impact given that, last year alone, 1,326 suspensions were given to students in elementary schools (up from 950 the year before). Furthermore, Durham could ramp up their use of restorative practices, a proven alternative to suspension which focuses on the reasons behind the problematic behavior and helps students’ understand the impact their actions have on others.
A revised code of conduct is a start, but Durham schools need leadership that is ready to take bold action to reduce suspensions so that students learn from their mistakes without jeopardizing their academic futures.
Co-Director of the Youth Justice Project
Candles in the window
Hanukkah started Tuesday evening. Jewish tradition encourages Jews to publicize the miracle of Hanukkah through the lighting of candles each night. Hanukkah candles are lit after dark when the candles are most visible and in the early evening when most people are still out and might see them. Candles are placed by the window facing the street so they can be easily seen. But what is the miracle we seek to publicize?
According to Jewish liturgy, we thank God on Hanukkah for the miraculous victory of the Hasmoneans (the ruling dynasty of Judea between 140 and 116 BCE) over the Greeks after Antiochus IV sacked the Temple in Jerusalem and suppressed distinctive Jewish practices such as circumcision and kosher dietary laws. The Maccabees rose up in revolt and our prayers praise God who “defended them, vindicated them, and avenged their wrongs.” Giving thanks for God’s protection is important, but why publicize the miracle we experienced to the world?
On one level, the lights of Hanukkah symbolize to the world and the Jewish people that God’s covenant with us has never been broken. Long after the great empires of Greece and Babylonia and Egypt have faded away, the Jewish people lives and our culture and faith continue to bring light into the world. In a world where the darkness of anti-Semitism still looms, the lights of Hanukkah proudly declare, “we are still here!”
On another level, the Hanukkah lights are lights of brotherhood with all who suffer in righteousness. They spread a message of hope to the downtrodden. Hanukkah celebrates the victory of a small, weak people against a great empire. We thank God who “delivered the strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few, the corrupt into the hands of the pure, the guilty into the hands of the innocent.” We put candles in the window as a way of saying to those who are persecuted, those who suffer, those who are weak, and those who are pure: there is hope. There is light in times of darkness. We know what darkness is and we have not forgotten. You are not forgotten. The candles shine a message of redemption to a broken world: never stop believing that the forces of light and goodness will ultimately triumph.
Happy Hanukkah to us all!
Rabbi Daniel Greyber
Beth El Synagogue
Remembering Bob Spearman
I was saddened to read about the passing of Bob Spearman, a pillar of North Carolina’s legal community and a devoted advocate for public education. Students across the state have benefited from his work on the Leandro case, which continues to shine a light on our state’s struggle to provide a sound education to all students.
It was deeply gracious of Mr. Spearman’s family to direct memorial contributions to the Carolina Covenant, a scholarship at UNC Chapel Hill that helps exactly those disadvantaged students he worked so hard to serve. It’s a fitting final gesture on behalf of a generous man, and we’re grateful. Here’s hoping many of our students follow in Bob’s footsteps.
Assistant Director for Policy and Communications
Office of Scholarships & Student Aid
We need not fear our history
Re: your article, “With Lee removed from Duke Chapel, is Jefferson or Martin Luther next?” The latest attempts to erase history and to despoil our heritage have come to our attention with force.
Sadly, some Duke faculty want to portray Duke simply as it presents itself in the present, not as it was. What will be the position of those in the future who have a different view of our present? Will they want to deconstruct the history of the 21st century, as they wish to erase the past now? There is not a single sculpted individual at the Duke Chapel who is without some regrettable actions or views in his past, certainly not Luther. But his contributions to freedom of religious thought were of historic proportion and not to be overshadowed by his anti-semitism. We need not fear our history; rather, let us learn from it.
Paralleling the Duke situation is Trump’s recent shrinkage of two national monuments which were established to preserve our environmental heritage. The history of legitimate actions to create national parks and monuments is worth preserving, and actions to reverse their creation is beyond understanding. For decades the American public has enjoyed access to these magnificent and spiritually enriching landscapes. Why should the tribal lands of Native Americans be taken from them, and why should all Americans be restricted unnecessarily from their access?
Our history, good, bad and indifferent, is important to understand and learn from it. We need to enjoy the fruits of our history as well as to regret them.
Trump wrong on Jerusalem
The Abrahamic Initiative on the Middle East (AIME), a coalition of spiritual and political leaders from the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions, deplores the decision of the Trump administration to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
This unilateral decision is wrong and reckless on several counts: 1) it openly disregards the longstanding consensus of the international community that Jerusalem belongs to no single nation, but is an international city, holy to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and therefore should be administered as a corpus separatum by the U.N. in order to ensure unencumbered access to all its holy sites; 2) it endorses the Israeli colonization and ghettoization of Palestinian East Jerusalem, the hoped-for capital of a future Palestinian state; 3) it extinguishes the last remaining embers of the so-called “peace process” built on the “two-state solution”; 4) it abandons the path that seeks a just and lasting peace, choosing instead domination and violence.
Simultaneously, this decision clarifies two basic realities: 1) it removes all pretense that the United States intends to be an impartial arbiter for a just peace in Israel-Palestine; and 2) it appears the path forward in Israel-Palestine is now a choice between an apartheid state or an open society founded on equal rights for all. How can we nurture the latter?
J. Mark Davidson and Miriam Thompson
Co-Conveners of AIME
What you’re saying
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