Give at the Grassroots: an End of Year Message from our New Program Director, Ruth Idakula!

Over the past 14 years, DSC has partnered with grassroots organizations across the country to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline and support a growing movement for education and racial justice. Emerging out of our partnership with the parent-led organization CADRE in Los Angeles, Partners for Dignity & Rights co-founded the Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) in 2006. Working with parents, youth, organizers and educators, we developed human rights-based models that reject a culture of punishment and criminalization in schools, and create positive approaches to school discipline that build strong relationships, prevent and resolve conflicts and provide students with the support they need.

Today the DSC has grown to a vibrant national coalition of over 100 organizations across 27 states. Through direct action organizing, public policy advocacy and leadership development, member-led campaigns in over two dozen school districts and states have won campaigns to rewrite discipline codes and change state laws ending suspensions and expulsions for minor misbehaviors, reducing arrests and implementing positive approaches like restorative justice and positive behavior supports in their schools. In 2019, the DSC-New York Chapter won a historic victory when New York City–the largest school district in the country–committed to implementing restorative justice in all middle and high schools and social-emotional learning in all elementary schools.

Despite these very real victories, all is not well. Systemic racial disparities persist in school discipline, as Black and Brown students are still being suspended and arrested at higher rates, and denied access to the services and support they need. School districts continue to invest in school policing, while denying that resources are available for counseling, mental health services and meaningful implementation of restorative justice and social-emotional supports. These inequities were amplified in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic shut down schools and low-income families of color were also denied the support needed to access remote learning. DSC provided rapid response funds for member organizations and developed collective human rights guidance for remote and hybrid learning to support organizing on the ground.

Amidst the global pandemic, communities also faced ongoing racist police violence, which following the police murders of Breonna Taylor in March and George Floyd in May, led to uprisings across the country with calls to defund the police. Youth and parent-led member organizations that had been fighting for years to end the criminalization of Black and Brown youth, won hard-fought campaigns in seven school districts to remove school police. Members in a dozen other districts are engaged in ongoing Counselors Not Cops campaigns to remove school police and fund supportive staff in schools – like community intervention workers, mental health counselors, restorative coordinators and others.

Looking ahead, as schools are navigating remote learning and the ongoing impacts of the pandemic, we recognize that students and families need mental and physical health supports, trauma and healing practices now more than ever. We will continue organizing to win full divestment from school policing and to reallocate those resources towards guaranteeing the human rights of every young person to a quality education and to be treated with dignity.

Please join us now in donating to our end of year campaign to support the Dignity in Schools Campaign.

In solidarity,

Ruth Idakula
Program Director
Dignity in Schools Campaign