The New York Times

Don't Suspend Students. Empathize.

To his teachers at Ridgeway High School in Memphis, Tennessee, Jason Okonofua was a handful. During class, his mind drifted and he would lose the thread of the lesson. He slouched at his desk and dozed off.

His teachers seemed to take it personally, as a sign of disrespect. He earned detention and was suspended several times.

Jason wasn’t trying to rile his teachers. He wasn’t paying attention in class because his thoughts were being consumed by his friends’ misfortunes — one had just been arrested, another had accidentally shot himself. He couldn’t stay awake because he was bone-tired from having worked at a restaurant until midnight.

His teachers knew none of this. They regarded Jason as a troublemaker. Research

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