The legacy of educational injustice is far and wide for Black people in the United States. For Racial Justice NOW! (RJN) families, we have been in the trenches of fighting for the educational rights of Black children in the state of Ohio for many years now. It was our families that led this fight from the grassroots when we began advocating for the passage of Ohio Senate Bill 167 back in 2014. Our Co-Founders, Professor Verneilla Randall and Zakiya Sankara-Jabar met with Ohio State Senator Peggy Lehner to urge her to give the bill a hearing as she was the chair of the Ohio Senate education committee. This began our relationship with one of the most powerful women in the Ohio legislature.
RJN families worked diligently to educate Senator Lehner and the rest of the Ohio legislature on the harmful impacts exclusionary, discriminatory school discipline policies that impact our families the most throughout the state. We are happy to see that Ohio House Bill 318 includes some of the items our families highlighted we needed:
- Implementation and grants for Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports
- Ban on out of school suspensions for minor misbehavior for PK-3rd grade
- Requires specified training and MOU for School Resource Officers
We would be remiss not to highlight where this bill falls short of our demands. We specifically asked that racial disparities be ended for Black children. Unfortunately, there is absolutely nothing in this bill that would target an end to racial disparate impact on Black children in Ohio. Our families asked that implicit and explicit bias be required training for all school personnel, and we asked to be able to use the Ohio Civil Rights Commission as a refuge to file complaints when our children are targeted unfairly. These complaints, if found to have merit, would have allowed the Ohio Attorney General to file suit against school districts and/or restrict funds. None of these items were included to our dismay. We know we still have a long way to go to ensure the humanity of Black children is protected and their right to free and appropriate education is realized.
The struggle continues. To support our work, please donate at www.rjnohio.org/donate.