On Sunday, Portland Association of Teachers and the Portland Public School District announced a tentative agreement on contract negotiations — ending a historic, nearly month-long strike and sending students and teachers back to the classroom Monday, Nov. 27.

The tentative contract agreement addresses many teacher demands, including a cumulative cost of living increase and new class-size thresholds, according to a letter released by the Portland Public School District.

Notably, the tentative contract also gets rid of mandatory minimum suspensions, which contribute to disproportionate rates of suspension for Native and Black students.

The letter from the district says the new contract “replaces mandatory minimum suspensions with trauma-informed processes that will get students the support they need.”

Education experts say the district’s previous method for issuing suspensions was too subjective – based on a teacher perceiving a threat, or fear of harm. The result was that students of color were far more likely to be suspended than white students across the district, particularly Black and Native American students.

That has an impact far beyond students' experiences in middle and high school.

“Disproportionate rates of discipline are actually leading to systemic poverty,” said Tamara Henderson, Laguna Pueblo, chief operating officer at the Native American Youth and Family Center and president of the Oregon Indian Education Association.

Read more about mandatory minimum suspensions and disproportionate rates of discipline for students of color in previous Underscore coverage.

Lead image: Hundreds of teachers, parents, students and supporters rallied together for the first day of the Portland teacher strike at Roosevelt High School in North Portland. Mark Graves/The Oregonian

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Nika is a journalist with a passion for working to center the voices and experiences of communities often left behind in mainstream media coverage. Of Osage and Oneida Nations descent, with Northern European...