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Vote To Reinstate Harsher Punishments At Pittsburgh Public Schools Fails

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - The Pittsburgh Public School board voted 4-4 to not reinstate harsher punishments for repeated minor misbehaviors in city schools.

In a heated meeting Tuesday night, most of the board's members did acknowledge that city schools are dealing with many issues like class disruptions and fights.

"Principals came to us because the schools are in need of immediate help," said board president Sylvia Wilson.

The board did not agree on reinstating the student disciplinary policy on the table. If it did pass, students with more than three level one infractions could have faced stricter consequences, including detention, in-school suspension or out-of-school suspension.

Level one infractions are typically less serious, non-violent offenses.

"They're not bad kids. They're coming from difficult circumstances that many of us may or not be able to relate to. But they are looking for us to be their support system. I don't think we're offering much support when we're willing to kick them out," said school board director Veronica Edwards.

"There are times when students are so disruptive and they know they are not getting any consequences, they have no incentive to behave," school board director Terry Kennedy.

Before voting on that policy, a motion to table it failed. Some people on the board think there needs to be more of a conversation.

"It has many implications and is closely related to the old concern about the school-to-prison pipeline. We have to be very careful about how we approach this," school board director Sala Udin.

The president of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers said educators needed the policy after kids experienced hard times during the pandemic.

"We have to give them space to learn how to work together again. I think we need to give them that space, we need to work together and have a solution together," Nina Esposito-Visgitis, president of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers. "Students have been through a lot of trauma, as the whole country has been, so absolutely our teachers need the supports in the classroom now so kids are able to learn. They don't have those supports available to them right now."

Some said it wasn't fair to vote on this without the new school board members, who are not in their seats yet.

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