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Paterson schools suspended 238 kindergarten, 1st and 2nd graders

PATERSON, N.J. — Parents that spoke to PIX11 were not happy to hear that students so young were suspended in such high numbers.

Paterson Schools wouldn’t say why 238 kids were served with an out-of-school suspension during the 2015-2016 school year, but they did send their student code of conduct, which they are revising.

"That’s a lot of children not learning and not getting what they’re supposed to be getting in class,” said Mahogany Clifton, who is mom to a 5-year-old in Paterson.

"I mean no matter what she did, I think they should have in-school suspension,” said Clifton. "She needs to stay in school.”

A spokeswoman said that while 238 sounds like a lot of suspensions, the district does have a big population of younger students and so this only represents 3.5% of kids in kindergarten through second grade.

“We’re concerned about it,” said Rosie Grant. She heads the Paterson Education Fund, which has been working with the district for several years to reduce suspensions.

“We know that kids that are not in school are not learning. So we want to find ways to keep kids in the classrooms."

New Jersey just passed a law several weeks ago which banned expulsions and severely limited grounds for suspension among kindergarten through second graders, unless a child poses a danger to others. The Paterson School District is aware of the new law and they are revising their Student Code of Conduct.

"Certainly the district carefully considers the option of in-school suspension — but this requires staff to oversee the child/children and our elementary staffing model does not always enable us to proceed in this manner — which is why you see the higher number,” said Terry Corallo, a spokeswoman for the district.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 6,743 pre-kindergarten students were suspended nationwide in the 2013-2014 school year.

Its numbers like these that rile education advocates, who are rallying for more counselors, social workers and other alternatives in schools, rather than suspension from them.

“I think it’s ridiculous. I really do. I think suspending a student out of school that young because you don’t have any place, anything in place in the school system to help them, is sending the wrong message,” said Linda Reid with the Parent Education Organizing Council in Paterson.

PIX11 also reached out to Newark and Jersey City for their suspension numbers among kindergarten through second graders, but we have not yet heard back.