Meet Sarah Omojola: Public Counsel’s Statewide Education Advocate!
Sarah Omojola joined Public Counsel in September 2012. She is a former English teacher and co-founder of a Stand Up For Each Other, an organization that provides advocacy services for students facing disciplinary action in New Orleans. She now works with Public Counsel and Fix School Discipline on policy and advocacy relating to stopping the school-to-prison pipeline.
Sarah began teaching high school students because of her strong commitment to help them succeed in school, continue into college and navigate challenges in their lives. She views the classroom, school and teachers as instrumental aids to help students achieve their goals and is disheartened by the numerous obstacles that teachers face because of traditional school discipline practices. Sarah believes that traditional practices like suspensions and expulsions work against both teachers’ and students’ goals and are a detriment to the education system.
Practically speaking, suspending a student makes it harder to teach them and it makes it harder for them to fulfill their goals in the long run. The students most likely to be suspended are the ones who need their teachers’ help the most, such as
- students who experience many home life challenges that cause them to act out in class;
- students who are behind and struggling with schoolwork; students who already view school as an oppressive place; or
- students who are misunderstood because of culture, orientation or disabilities.
After being suspended or expelled, these students are infinitely more at risk of ending up becoming victims of crime or running into trouble with the law themselves. If, and when, they return from a suspension or expulsion, they are further behind with their schoolwork and therefore, even harder to teach.”
At Public Counsel, Sarah helped create the How We Can Fix School Discipline Toolkit, an essential tool for teachers to learn about alternatives to traditional methods of discipline and how to advocate for their use in schools. Approaches such as Restorative Practices or positive behavior interventions and supports have proven effective at keeping kids in school and learning, improving school climate, and lowering suspension and expulsion rates.
As a former teacher, Sarah strongly believes that using the How We Can Fix School Discipline Toolkit and abandoning the traditional discipline methods are crucial steps to helping teachers and students meet their goals. On this front, she will be hosting a webinar series, Let’s Fix School Discipline to help teachers, administrators, parents and students effectively use the toolkit. She is excited to be working with Public Counsel to help stop the school-to-prison pipeline!