Members of the Bloc Burnaz Motorcycle Club gathered alongside Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools students, teachers and other community members in the middle of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center courtyard Tuesday.
Ronald Johnson, a member of the motorcycle club, explained that they were there to support O.N.E. Charlotte’s restorative justice campaign to productively repair the harm caused by negative student behavior.
“We’re committed to being a part of that,” he said.
The rally was part of O.N.E. Charlotte’s plan to publicly request Superintendent Ann Clark and the CMS school board’s participation in implementing restorative justice programs in CMS schools.
What O.N.E. Charlotte is committed to:
-The “Wobble.” Yep. Members of The Possibility Project wobbled to warm up the crowd for the series of speakers calling for equitable education.
-Making students heard. One student recited a poem alluding to a troubled student population.
“Why call this a system if it’s already working against us?” she said. “We all commit flaws but some can’t be seen by the naked eye. We venture out all dressed up, trying to be accepted, holding back many a cry.” -Reducing the number of disparate suspensions in CMS. Teach For America alumna Lisa Guckian shared that black males were suspended more than 19,000 times during the 2012-2013 school year, while white males were suspended fewer than 2,500 times.
She added that black students account for 77 percent of short-term suspensions, although they only represent 41 percent of the population.
“Unless we dramatically change these patterns within our schools,” Guckian said, “we are not setting our students of color up for success.”
-Breaking the school-to-prison pipeline. “There is a pretty direct link among three things,” Guckian said. “School suspensions, students dropping out of school and incarceration.”
-Restorative justice as an approach to student misconduct. “In schools,” she said, “it could take on many forms.”
It could look like: peer mediation, circles for talking through conflicts and processing feelings, mentorship programs, and reintegrating students after they have been suspended in positive, productive ways. – Engaging with CMS. Louise Hindal, another TFA alumna, announced that Clark has committed to working with O.N.E. Charlotte to plan the launch of a pilot program of restorative justice in six CMS schools during the 2015-2016 academic year.
— Litsa Pappas (@LitsaPappas) May 13, 2015
– Chanting. The entire group celebrated the announcement by linking arms in a humongous circle, a “shield for students.” They chanted “One Charlotte! One Charlotte!”
Katie Toussaint edits for CharlotteFive and community news at the Charlotte Observer. Follow her on Twitter @katietoussaint.