Academic and career success begins with fewer suspensions and more support, academics contend

CINCINNATI -- Dianne Piché volunteered in the library at her young daughter's school and watched as a second-grader loudly cursed and defied her teacher, who would have been within her rights to suspend the little girl.

Instead, the teacher sent her to a time-out area and spent the rest of the year working closely with the girl, encouraging her to write, rarely sending the girl to the principal let alone banishing her from the building.

For Valentine's Day, the teacher asked her students to write a Valentine to anyone they chose.

"The girl wrote to her father, 'Dear Dad, I love you. Please stop fighting with other people in jail because I want you to come home and I miss you,'" Piché said.

At the end of the school year, the girl read her own poetry at an optional event, and her mother thanked the teacher for all she had done. The girl moved on to take accelerated classes, Piché said.

It's a story that Piché, now senior counsel and director of education programs at The Leadership Conference in Washington, remembers many years later as she works to break what has become known as the "schools to prison pipeline."

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