Parents, Advocates, Activists, and Community Members Respond to Mass Suspensions at Wilby High School

In a single day, despite there being no systematic evidence that suspensions help maintain a safe learning environment or deter future misbehavior, the Waterbury Public Schools chose to suspend 156 Wilby High School students for not adhering to dress code (American Psychological Association Zero Tolerance Task Force, 2008). Furthermore, research tells us that students who are suspended just one time are more likely to be incarcerated, arrested, to drop out of school, to be retained, to be suspended again, and are more prone to having lower academic performance than students who are not suspended (Arum & Beattie, 1999; Balfanz, Byrnes, & Fox, 2015; Bowditch, 1993; Fabelo et al., 2011; Marchbanks et al., 2015; and Shollenberger, 2015). A school climate policy that places discipline over academic performance is harmful and irresponsible. This paradigm accelerates the school-to-prison pipeline.


Waterbury schools suspend 25.7% of its middle school students, 34.6 % of its high school students; and 18.9 % of all of its students. Wilby suspended 49 % of all its students in 2015-16. Take for instance that the New Haven Public Schools had 995 school policy violations that led to a suspension. The New Haven Public Schools has 22,000 students. Wilby, a school with just 1100 students, reported 2276 school policy violations that led to a suspension. This is alarming. Considering the latest episode and reviewing the most recent discipline data for Wilby High School, we the undersigned recommend an immediate intervention.

Therefore we ask the superintendent of schools, Dr. Kathleen Ouellette, and the Waterbury Board of Education to:

• Assign an independent body to investigate the mass suspension of students at Wilby High School that occurred on April 21, 2017.

• Implement a moratorium on school suspensions for dress code violations as well as for all Level 1 and 2 infractions at Wilby High School until the independent investigation is completed.

• Place school staff responsible for coordinating and carrying out the mass suspension of students on Administrative Leave until the independent investigation is completed.

• Require all recommended student suspensions at Wilby High School to be reviewed by the superintendent before the suspension is finalized.

Contact Robert Goodrich for more information (203) 597-7456

Waterbury Public Schools discipline trends analysis by RACCE:

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For more detailed data on discipline trends for all schools in the state:

State board members ‘outraged’ by number of young students suspended

Categories: Current Issues

3 replies

  1. A few weeks ago my daughter was suspended from school ( Wilby High School)for wearing a hoodie in the hallway,when all they needed to tell her was to take it off and go back to her class. But no they had to suspended her.
    The staff at that school obviously does not want to deal with the students, they really need to look into this..

  2. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see how removing all of the school’s authority figures, while simultaneously halting suspensions for things like leaving school grounds, entering unauthorized areas, gambling, and refusing to serve detention, is in any way a good way to approach this situation…

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