THE BRONX - Students in a Bronx youth group rallied Wednesday to keep kids in the classroom even after they misbehave.
Members of the group Sistas and Brothas United say they believe punishments like suspensions limit a student's access to education.
Students marched from the Bathgate campus of the Validus Preparatory Academy to the Fulton Correctional Facility, which is now closed, to symbolize what they call the "school-to-prison pipeline."
Student Brandon Parker was suspended for fighting with another student. He says the punishment almost caused him to drop out of school but that the outcome could have been different with an alternate approach.
"We could have moved on, we probably could have been friends after that," he says. "But that didn't happen because we didn't have restorative justice in that school."
The students are asking the City Council to put $5 million toward implementing restorative justice strategies in the upcoming school year.
According to the Department of Education, just one suspension in high school lowers a student's odds of graduating in four years by 46 percent.
Those rallying say that conflict resolution strategies like having kids sit down to discuss their issues are more effective than kicking them out of school.