April has been a very busy month for the Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC)! We held our first DSC Days at the Capitol for 2011. On April 10-13 over 50 DSC members and supporters traveled to Washington, DC to meet with their legislators, share their stories, and make their voices heard on Capitol Hill.
This e-mail features an update from the Community Rights Campaign on their recent victory for Los Angeles high school students, new resources from the NAACP and the new and revised DSC Fact Sheets on School Pushout. It also includes two new blog posts on the correlation between the quality of educational opportunities and potential future incarceration for our nation's Black and Latino youth, and an inside look into the abusive practices at a residential treatment center and day school for adults and children with disabilities.
Please don't hesitate to contact us if you'd like to get involved by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dignity in Schools Campaign
Working Group Update
The Dignity in Schools Campaign Days at The Capitol - April 2011
On April 10-13, students, parents, community organizers and education advocates from California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Oregon and Pennsylvania converged in Washington, DC for the Dignity in Schools Days at the Capitol 2011.
The delegations from 9 different states included members of the Philadelphia Student Union, Padres y Jovenes Unidos, Restorative Schools Vision Project (RSVP), Gwinnett STOPP, SNAPPS, COFI/POWER PAC, CADRE, Mississippi Delta Catalyst Roundtable, Center for Community Alternatives, Mississippi Coalition for the Prevention of Schoolhouse 2 Jailhouse, Portland Parent Union, Youth United for Change, Parent Advocacy Working Group, and Atlanta Community Engagement Team. These groups are working on a local and national level to ensure that all young people are guaranteed the human right to an equal and high quality education.
Read about our first Days at the Capitol event from September 2010.
Member Group Spotlight
The Community Rights Campaign recently won a major victory in their "Truancy Ticket Campaign." Since it was launched in 2008, the campaign has been seeking to put an end to LAPD ticketing of students for truancy and tardiness. As reported in an April 14 LA Times article, "City and school police issued more than 47,000 tickets from 2004 to 2009, 88% of them to African Americans and Latinos, according to data compiled by activists through public records requests. And not one of the more than 13,118 curfew tickets issued by the school police went to a white student, advocates said."
Thanks to the Community Rights Campaign, and their allies at Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, Public Counsel, and the ACLU of Southern California, the LAPD has announced that it will revise its policy of ticketing students and put an end to "truancy sweeps" on school grounds.
As reported in Colorlines, "the community and advocacy groups argued that far from encouraging kids to get to school on time or at all, truancy tickets actually do the exact opposite by forcing students to miss class in order to resolve them. The Strategy Center, which has been organizing to fight the punitive truancy tickets for several years, argued that aggressive truancy ticket policies actually fast-tracked kids into a school-to-prison pipeline. The more interaction kids have with the police, they said, the more likely kids are to drop out eventually."
The Community Rights Campaign is a project of the Los Angeles-based Labor/Community Strategy Center that has been working to organize L.A. high school students and L.A.'s 500,000 low-income bus riders. They build campaigns to push back the growing police/prison state and push forward an expanded social welfare state. They also organize high school students in Take Action after-school clubs to stop the school-to-prison pipeline in favor of building a positive, empowered learning environment.
Click here to visit their website and learn more.
From the DSC Blog
Educate, Don't Incarcerate
by Mariame Kaba, Project NIA
We know that the very best way to prevent future incarceration is to invest on the front end in providing excellent educational opportunities for children. A 2007 study estimated that the U.S. could save $209,000 in prison and other costs for every potential dropout who could be supported to complete high school. However, for years now, the U.S. has neglected its educational system and instead pursued a racist tough-on-crime policy that has resulted in locking up millions of black and brown people.
More Than Just a Loss of Dignity
by Matthew Engel, Disability La Center
All students have the right to be treated with dignity and to not be abused, punished in an arbitrary manner or pushed out of school. There is one school, however, which brings the treatment of its students to a whole new level ... a very low level. The Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) is a residential treatment center and day school located in Canton, Massachusetts which serves children and adults with a variety of disabilities. The majority of the residents are funded by school districts or state agencies serving adults in New York and Massachusetts, although a number of other states also provide funding. The cost per year is mind-boggling, more than $200,000.
In The News
Putting School Suspensions on the Agenda
by Rebecca Vevea (Chicago News Cooperative, April 26, 2011)
"A coalition of community organizations pushing for Chicago Public Schools to reduce suspension and expulsion rates could find an ally in incoming schools chief Jean-Claude Brizard, who dramatically cut suspensions during his time in Rochester, N.Y., though some criticized Brizard’s methods for doing so.
By switching all short-term suspensions from out-of-school punishments to in-school punishments, Brizard lowered the district’s suspension rate from 15 percent to 2 percent in his first full year running the Rochester school system. But because in-school suspensions are not counted in the suspension rate, critics of Brizard in Rochester say the numbers changed, but the policy did not fully address behavioral problems."
Special-ed Student Joseph Anderson, 7, Handcuffed by Cops at Queens School After Easter Egg Tantrum
by Meredith Kolodner (New York Daily News, April 21, 2011)
"Cops handcuffed a 7-year-old at a Queens school after he became upset while decorating an Easter egg, his mom said. Special-education student Joseph Anderson, a first-grader at Public School 153 in Maspeth, was taken to Elmhurst Hospital Center in metal cuffs, even though his mother told school officials she was on her way to pick him up, mom Jessica Anderson said."
Stop Dumping Our Most Vulnerable Students
by John Thompson (Huffington Post, April 21, 2011)
"The proliferation of choice has allowed charters and other selective schools to "cream" the easiest to educate students, leaving even greater concentrations of generational poverty in neighborhood schools. The results of this increased segregation might not have been so tragic had we also invested in alternative services for the children who have endured suffering so terrible that they are emotionally incapable of functioning in the chaos of neighborhood secondary schools. Instead, we have dumped our most vulnerable children on our most vulnerable schools, turning them into way stations for those kids until they land on the streets."
LAPD Won't Ticket Tardy Students on Their Way to School Anymore
by Julianne Hing (Colorlines, April 18, 2011)
"The revised policy is the product of an agreement from the LAUSD, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's office and his non-profit Partnership for Los Angeles schools and the Labor Community Strategy Center, Public Counsel, as well as the ACLU of Southern California. The community and advocacy groups argued that far from encouraging kids to get to school on time or at all, truancy tickets actually do the exact opposite by forcing students to miss class in order to resolve them. The Strategy Center, which has been organizing to fight the punitive truancy tickets for several years, argued that aggressive truancy ticket policies actually fast-tracked kids into a school-to-prison pipeline. The more interaction kids have with the police, they said, the more likely kids are to drop out eventually."
The Time Is Right to End 'Zero Tolerance' in Schools
by Gara LaMarche (Commentary - Education Week, April 6, 2011)
"It is too early to know whether the current wave of school reforms will lead to lasting improvements in student achievement. But it is not too early to note that many of these reforms have a troubling consequence: a doubling-down on harsh, ineffective zero-tolerance discipline policies. All too often, the debate about school reform has wrongly emphasized pushing troubled children out of school, rather than making systemic improvements so that all students have the support they need to learn."
Misplaced Priorities: Over Incarcerate, Under Educate
This new report from the NAACP tracks the steady shift of state funds away from education and toward the criminal justice system. It is part of the NAACP's Smart and Safe Campaign, and offers a set of recommendations that will help policymakers in all 50 states downsize prison populations and shift the savings to education budgets.
Click here to view and download this report.
Dignity in Schools Fact Sheets
Pathways To Pushout
What's The Problem With Push Out?
Who's Getting Pushed Out?
About the Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC)
The Dignity in Schools Campaign is a national coalition of youth, parents, advocates, community-based organizations, educators and policymakers working together to seek human rights-based solutions to the systemic problem of pushout in U.S. schools.
Visit us at www.dignityinschools.org to learn more.