Dignity in Schools Blog
On Tuesday, May 14, DSC members CADRE, Public Counsel Law Center, Labor/Community Strategy Center, and Children's Defense Fund-California working with the Brothers, Sons, Selves Coalition of Los Angeles on the Every Student Matters Campaign celebrated a groundbreaking victory when the Los Angeles Unified School Board approved a School Climate Bill of Rights that: bans suspensions for willful defiance; calls for stepped up implementation of School-Wide Positive Behavior Support and for the first time Restorative Justice; makes discipline, citation, and school arrest data available to students and parents; and clarifies the role of police in schools.
In Chicago, Project NIA and the Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation invited parents, educators, students, advocates, and community members to gather on January 24th to discuss their concerns about the White House proposal on January 24th. As a result of this meeting, a coalition of individuals and organizations in Chicago kicked-off their "Yes To Counselors, No To Cops” Campaign to pressure their Senators to oppose any new funding for police officers in schools and to take an affirmative position in support of more counselors and restorative justice programs in schools.
NY Students Call on City and Mayoral Candidates to End School-to-Prison Pipeline at School Safety and Climate Hearingin
By Sharmin Hossain and Nancy Uddin, Ya Ya Network
The presence of the NYPD, the use of metal detectors, wands, random searches and the practice of calling on school safety officers to resolve conflicts - instead of counselors or teachers, in our schools are what creates a culture of fear and leads to the criminalization of our youth. And this issue is not limited to our schools.
NYC Students, Educators, Mayoral Candidates and Elected Officials Demand End to Racial Disparities in School Disciplinein
On Monday, April 15th, 2013 at 11 AM, New York City Democratic mayoral candidates John Liu, Bill Thompson, leaders from the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and citywide elected officials stood with students, parents and teachers on the steps of New York’s City Hall, to call for an end to racial disparities in school suspensions and arrests. The press conference, brought together by the Dignity in Schools Campaign- NY (DSC-NY), and joined by the citywide coalition New Yorkers for Great Public Schools, called on the next Mayor to end the racial disparities by implementing positive approaches to discipline like Restorative Justice programs, that will keep young people in the classroom and out of the streets and the juvenile justice system.
Natalie Chap, coordinator of the Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC), and Liz Sullivan, a member of the DSC Coordinating Committee and director of the Human Right to Education Program at the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative, co-authored this article for the American Bar Association's Children's Rights Litigation Newsletter presenting the DSC's Model Code on Education and Dignity as an alternative to policies that would increase the number of school resource officers (SROs) and other law enforcement personnel, along with the use of zero-tolerance practices, in our nation's schools. Click here to read the full article.
'You Can't Build Peace With A Piece' Rally at U.S. Capitol and White House to Reject Harmful School Safety Policiesin
On Monday, March 4th, youth from across the country held a rally on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol and led a march to the White House to call on Congress and the Obama administration to reject school safety policies that criminalize students of color, immigrant youth, LGBTQ students and students with disabilities and push them out of school. Youth and parent leaders from states including California, Georgia, Mississippi, New York, and Washington, DC gathered to give testimony about the impact of increased police presence, armed guards, metal detectors and zero tolerance discipline policies in their schools and communities and to demand that the voices of youth of color be included in the conversation on gun violence prevention and school safety. Speakers urged legislators and the White House to focus on investing in proven positive measures like Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS), social and emotional learning, Restorative Justice, and the hiring and training of counselors, social workers, and community intervention workers.
A coalition of organizations led by youth of color, including the Youth Justice Coalition and other members of the Dignity in Schools Campaign, have launched "You Can't Build Peace With a Piece" a national youth-led campaign to call for positive approaches in response to gun violence and address the impact of school safety policies on youth of color in the aftermath of the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. The coalition has created a Facebook Group to spread the word, share content, and resources, to collaborate on a series of events throughout February, March, and April.
Invest In Practices that Strengthen Bonds between Students and Educators, Not Increased Police Presence
Washington, DC – Yesterday, President Obama laid out an impressive plan to meaningfully address the causes of gun violence and highlighted the importance of fostering a nurturing school climate to help prevent school violence. Part of the President’s plan would enable U.S. schools to hire up to 1,000 more school police or school counselors. We are concerned by any plan that could result in more police in schools. “What our schools need are programs that promote peaceful conflict resolution that will strengthen our communities,” said Dwayne Hoye, a member of Blocks Together and the Dignity in Schools Campaign, and a graduate of Orr Academy High school in Chicago, IL. “We already have approximately two police officers per public school in Chicago and in spite of that, I never felt any safer in my school. I wish they had used those resources to train my teachers and school staff on how to prevent conflict instead."
In the weeks following the tragic events in Newtown, Connecticut, a number of advocates, including members of Congress and the National Rifle Association, have called for armed guards and/or police officers in public schools. As Vice President Joe Biden’s task force on gun violence develops policy recommendations in response to the attack and gun violence more generally, a coalition of youth, parents, education advocates, civil rights organizations, and law enforcement are cautioning the White House against embracing proposals to put armed guards and police in schools.
Updated 12/12/12 - We are very pleased to announce that Edward Ward, a youth organizer with Blocks Together, a DSC member organization, was selected to testify before a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights on “Ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline” on Wednesday, December 12. This was the first-ever Congressional hearing on the school-to-prison pipeline and it’s intent was to discuss the alarming rate at which young people are being pushed out of the classroom and into the courts for relatively minor, non-violent offenses.
New York City public schools reported 69,643 suspensions in the 2011-2012 school year, according to new Department of Education data released Friday afternoon. The figure represents a 5.2 percent decrease from the 73,441 suspensions reported in 2010-2011, which may reflect recent revisions to the DOE’s Discipline Code and efforts to train teachers on positive disciplinary approaches. However, the rate of suspensions is still more than double what it was at the beginning of the Bloomberg administration.
The results are in: “Won’t Back Down” set the record for the worst performing opening weekend of all time. The film, which portrays a single mother partnering up with a teacher to transfer management of their local public school to a charter school, found a small burst of publicity in a set negative articles published by critics of charter schools and those who saw an anti-union slant to the story. While I am not a movie critic, one thing is clear to me: the movie misses the mark on the issue of school reform and meaningful parent engagement.
The 3rd Annual National Week of Action on School Pushout began Saturday, September 29 and ended on Saturday, October 6, 2012.Throughout the week, thousands of parents, students, educators and educations advocates took part in parent and student-led actions and events around the country to expose the school pushout crisis and advocate for the human right of every young person to a quality education and to be treated with dignity.
At a Los Angeles, CA press conference held at Chuco’s Justice Center, the Dignity in Schools Campaign stood together with the Opportunity to Learn Campaign to call for a moratorium on out-of-school suspensions in an effort to address the nationwide pushout crisis facing our schools. The press conference featured representatives of sixteen DSC member organizations from California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi and New York who voiced their support for the moratorium and shared powerful stories from both students and parents who had experienced harsh discipline policies that pushed students out of school rather than supporting them in reaching their full potential.
On Wednesday, June 27, 2012, POWER-PAC, a DSC Organizational Member, testified at the Chicago Board of Education Meeting, supporting the passage of a revised Student Code of Conduct which will drastically reduce the number of days of suspensions CPS students experience. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, “the new code would limit the opportunities for a principal to suspend; encourage more in-school suspensions; reduce the maximum number of suspension days, and emphasize corrective approaches, such as peace circles or social skills instruction, as the first response to misdeeds.” POWER-PAC Co-Chair Felipa Mena, was featured on Chicago's lead Spanish-language news, applauding CPS for passing the code with these revisions.
High HOPES Passes Resolution to Reduce Suspensions and Implement Restorative Justice in Chicago Public Schoolsin
The High HOPES Campaign, a Chicago coalition of eight community groups that includes DSC members Access Living, Blocks Together, POWER-PAC/COFI and Southwest Youth Collaborative, won the passage of a non-binding resolution in the Chicago City Council in May after members of the Education Committee grilled Chicago Public Schools (CPS) about their failure to implement district-wide alternative discipline approaches.
Dignity in Schools Campaign Statement on Salecia Johnson Handcuffing and Arrest
The shocking handcuffing and arrest of six-year-old Salecia Johnson in Milledgeville, GA for allegedly throwing a tantrum is, unfortunately, an all-too-common practice in thousands of schools around the country where harsh and punitive disciplinary practices are the first response to student misbehavior, including for minor incidents such as insubordination, disrespect, class disruption and fighting.
Power U Center for Social Change, a Miami-based community organization and member of the Dignity in Schools Campaign, together with the Advancement Project produced and released this video documenting the school discipline crisis in the State of Florida. The video is intended to serve as a conversation starter in the effort to dismantle the School-to-Prison Pipeline, push for common sense discipline and ensure that every student receives a high quality education. Please take a few minutes to view it and share it!
On March 30th, 2012 the Dignity in Schools Campaign submitted comments on the U.S. Department of Education's Teacher Incentive Fund, a part of the Obama administration's educational platform which would provide funds for implementing teacher incentive programs in states and districts with “high need schools.” While the DSC agrees that teachers and administrators are the most important in-school factors impacting the quality of a student’s education and that teachers should be encouraged and supported, the DSC disagrees with the proposal that hiring, firing and bonus decisions should be based significantly on student growth measured through standardized tests. Relying on standardized test scores to determine which teachers get raises and which teachers will lose their jobs creates a whole new form of “high-stakes” testing, and can only result in even more "test-score" based curricula. This approach creates new incentives for pushing out low-scoring students.
Washington, D.C. – Today Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, announced the results of the latest Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) – a national survey of 72,000 schools – which shows that racial disparities in school discipline, including suspensions, expulsions and arrests, remain alarmingly high in districts and states across the country. Key findings show that African-American students are more than three times as likely to be suspended as their white peers. Over 70 percent of students involved in school-related arrests or referred to law enforcement are Black or Latino, and students with disabilities are suspended at a rate twice that of students without disabilities.