Reflection for Sunday – November 6, 2022
Readings: 2 Maccabees 7: 1-2, 9-14; 2 Thessalonians 2: 16-3:5; Luke 20: 27-38
Preacher: Brigit Hurley
The disciples who were listening as Jesus answered the Sadducees’ trick questions in the Gospel story were no older than twenty-something, and possibly as young as 12. His mother was likely 12 or 13 when she gave birth to Jesus.
The prominence given to these teenagers in the life of Jesus should give us pause. Much of our faith tradition is based on their accounts and their actions, yet we seldom pay as close attention to the voices of today’s youth.
The annual Children’s Sabbath provides an opportunity every October for faith communities from diverse faith traditions to pray, learn and act on behalf of children and youth. In a Children’s Sabbath sermon, Rev. Starsky Wilson, CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund, proclaimed,” God is with us, because children are with us! Our children represent a hope beyond the death, destruction, and chaos that they have inherited.”
In the Gospel reading, Jesus rejects the Sadducees’ legalistic views by reminding us that “[God] is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” We are called to be people of the Resurrection, of hope and forgiveness and second chances.
Our schools should be places of hope also, but too often that is not the case. A recent statewide investigation revealed that children with disabilities are frequently restrained or confined alone in closet-like “time out rooms,” sometimes multiple times a day or for hours at a time. Nationally, students with disabilities and Black students account for the disproportionate majority of restraint and seclusion incidents.
The same is true of harsh discipline policies in local schools. Marginalized students are more likely to be suspended or expelled, sending a message to children that they are not welcome. When children of color are removed from schools, the school to prison pipeline is too often set on its course. In school districts across Monroe County thousands of students—including hundreds in PreK through third grade— are suspended every year, with tragic results. A survey of local school districts found that:
- Black students are 2 – 6 times more likely to be suspended than white students
- Special education students are 2 – 5 times more likely to be suspended than general education students
- Economically disadvantaged students are 2 – 4 times more likely to be suspended than children in families with moderate to high incomes
There are effective alternatives to suspension, like restorative practices and social-emotional learning, that require investments and a belief that children should be listened to and treated with dignity. Teachers also deserve support and resources so they can keep children who are struggling in the classroom instead of sending them away.
We can be part of this change by advocating for the Solutions Not Suspensions bill in the New York State legislature. Visit www.thechildrensagenda.org, click on “Take Action” and use the Solutions Not Suspensions Action Alert to send a message to state leaders that young students need education, not exclusion.
As Amanda Gorman reminded us in her inauguration poem, “There is always light. If only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”
Click here to learn more about alternatives to suspension.