NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — According to parents and community activists, the number of high school students getting suspended in Norfolk is out of hand. 

Last year, 16% of high school students in Norfolk Public Schools received at least one out of school suspension. That’s up 2 percent from the previous year. 

“So every time a child is being disciplined, our first thought is ‘let’s throw them out,’ what are we really teaching them,” said Christi Alston, a mother of two.  

Granby High School had the highest percentage of suspensions for high schools in the city last year with a rate of 27%. 

On Wednesday afternoon, members of a community grassroots organization called Virginia Organizing gathered outside the Norfolk school administration building downtown to voice their disagreement with the frequent use of out-of-school suspension as a disciplinary technique. 

Organizers said the numbers show students of color were four times more likely to receive suspension than their white peers. Disabled students were twice as likely to be suspended. 

ODU professor Dr. Ruth Osorio says the research is clear. 

“Students who are suspended are less likely to complete high school and more likely to be arrested during or after the suspension,” explained Dr. Osorio. 

“If kids are just out on the street, they’re more likely to get into things they shouldn’t have any business getting into,” said Rev. John Myers. 

The group proposed eight policy changes they believe would help:

1)   In-school suspension in all schools

2)   Good pay and training in restorative practices for in-school suspension instructors

3)   Trauma-informed care in all schools

4)   More teacher trainings in:

a.     Implicit bias

b.     Student engagement

c.      De-escalation training

5)   More counselors in all schools 

6)   Increase screening and diagnosis of second graders

7)   Monthly updates on external audit of special education program at school board meetings

8)   Monthly updates from bullying coordinator at school board meetings

“This problem is systemic and complex,” Dr. Osorio said. “It requires all of us to work together, to meet the emotional, intellectual and physical needs of all of our students. ”