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High school suspensions topic of talk with Charles Bell, August 30

Students and legislators who support school reform will join Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice Charles Bell for a presentation and discussion on school suspension.

Bell, who researches how school suspensions harm African American families will lead with a presentation at 1 p.m. on Friday, August 30, in Schroeder Hall, room 130, of Illinois State University. The event is free and open to the public.

headshot of Charles Bell, Ph.D.

Charles Bell

Following the research presentation, six Illinois high school students will join representatives from the offices of sponsors of the Illinois school discipline reform bill, State Rep. William Davis and Sen. Kimberly Lightford, to discuss how school suspensions harm students and their families, their personal experiences navigating school discipline, violence, and trauma as well as exploring solutions to the issues.

Bell recently completed studies on African American students’ and parents’ perceptions of school discipline in Illinois.  “Students often received longer suspensions for minor offenses despite school discipline reform legislation that was passed by the state legislature in 2015,” said Bell, who added that students reported feelings of being targeted for school discipline and skipping school altogether to avoid suspensions.

School suspensions are intended to remove “trouble” students from the educational environment—temporarily defusing problems. In financially strapped districts, however, suspensions are being used as a first resort to relieve overcrowded classrooms, said Bell. The result is extended suspensions over sometimes minor infractions, placing more students on a downward spiral that includes academic failure, school dropout, and incarceration.

Joining the faculty of Illinois State in 2018, Bell gathered the study’s data while completing his doctorate at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan.

Those who need special accommodations to fully participate in the event can call (309) 438-5968 or cabell6@ilstu.edu. Please allow sufficient time to arrange accommodations.

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