The Lowcountry Education LOC (Local Organizing Committee) spurred by calls for action to implement initiatives to improve conditions in black communities, is advocating for change in how Charleston County School District deals with student suspensions and expulsions.
The Lowcountry Education LOC is an organization of educators, business people, social workers and others developed to mobilize efforts that nurture and prepare children to attain a higher level of excellence going into the 21st century.
The group has arrived at a consensus for implementing several initiatives that include creating an after school, summer and/or Saturday school, mentoring programs (Men In Action – male only, ‘Mommy and Me’ – women only) and networking with other groups in addition to eventually opening a school.
Spokesperson Veronica Muhammad said the issue of student suspensions in Charleston County School District is one of the group’s initial focuses because the higher rate of suspensions and expulsions for black kids leads to social disparities in the black community that starts in the educational system.
The group notes that although only 42 percent of CCSD students are black, they represent about 83 percent of all students suspended. The suspension rate for black students in the district is about 13 percent compared to about 2 percent for white students.
The group is critical of the district’s alternative programs which serve students suspended from their home schools. The program serving middle school students is a disservice that amounts to no more than a yearlong warehouse where children are ‘contained’, according to the group.
Because few resources are offered to address academic inadequacies, students in the program fall further behind. When they’re reintegrated at their home schools the inadequacies manifested by their inappropriate behavior often has been exacerbated, so they’re eventually expelled and ultimately drop out, the LOC contends. Programs serving elementary and high school students aren’t much better, Muhammad said.
It’s where the pipeline to prison begins, said Muhammad. The institutional racism perpetuated by “just another program” leaves black children out in the wilderness. The whole system needs to be overhauled, she said.
The Education LOC believes it can work with children, youth and CCSD to produce a different outcome. September 10 the LOC will hold a Black Educators’ Conference-Think Tank to bring together educators and others concerned about the education of black children. But it needs help – space for a Saturday School and educators to teach there. And they need supplies – pencils, paper, refreshments, etc.
“We need educators committed to the training of our children. It doesn’t matter if you’re retired or working, we need you!” Muhammad said. To contact the group, call Muhammad at (843) 870-0645, Valerie Anthony at (843) 259-0654 or email them at [email protected]