Highlights from 2013 Week of Action Against School Pushout

The Fourth Annual National Week of Action took place from September 28 to October 5, 2013. Over 60 organizations in 22 states joined the Dignity in Schools Campaign to “Push Back Against School Pushout” in our largest Week of Action to date. Students, parents, teachers and advocates lifted their voices to demand an end to school disciplinary policies that push students out of school and down a pipeline to prison and low-wage jobs.

During this year’s Week of Action, we raced against the U.S. government shutdown clock with our SparkAction alert urging members of the Senate to support federal school discipline reform. On September 30 our message reached 150,000 people on social media via Thunderclap. Over the course of the week, almost 2 million Twitter posts (tweets) used the #SchoolPushout hashtag and our Facebook posts reached about 13,000 unique users. We also added a Dignity in Schools Tumblr page and an Instagram account to share photos of actions and events across the country!

Roundup of Local Actions Across the Country

Push Back Against School Pushout!

Each day during the Week of Action, DSC members and allies across the country held marches, rallies, teach-ins, community forums, film screenings and more! We also highlighted a different theme on social media each day related to our work to end school pushout.

Saturday, September 28: Solutions Not Suspensions

To kick off the Week of Action, DSC highlighted the theme Solutions Not Suspensions, tied to our call for a moratorium on out-of-school suspensions. Each year, over 3 million students are suspended from school, often for minor misbehavior, without access to educational services or interventions to address the root causes of misbehavior. Check out our video on Solutions Not Suspensions.

On day 1 in Mississippi, Action Communication and Education Reform (ACER) and Sunflower County Parents and Students launched a week of teach-ins and workshops on school pushout. Throughout the week, Activists with a Purpose, Citizens for a Better Greenville, Fannie Lou Hamer Center for Change and others described below also held actions in Mississippi. In Durham-NC, Youth Organizing Institute and NC Heat joined the NC PRIDE march with iNSIDEoUT, and in New Orleans-LA, Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children (FFLIC) held a Parent Leadership Training.

GSA Network and Padres y Jovenes Unidos held a youth summit on issues of push out and solutions for LGBTQ youth and allies in Denver-CO, and Racial Justice Now also hosted a youth leadership summit - A United Front to Save Our Black Youth - in Dayton-OH.

In Portland-OR, the Portland Parent Union held dialogues, skits and story-telling on school pushout and restorative justice, and in Minneapolis-MN, Twin Cities Save the Kids held a youth workshop at the Hennepin Juvenile Detention Facility. Meanwhile, in Paterson-NJ, the Parent Education Organizing Committee (PEOC) and Paterson Education Fund (PEF) held a cookout to discuss out-of-school suspensions.

Sunday, September 29: Counselors Not Cops

On Sunday we highlighted the work of DSC members across the country pushing back against policing in our schools. The youth-led You Can’t Build Peace with a Piece campaign is calling for investment in counselors, community intervention workers and peace-builders in our schools, not more police and school resource officers. Watch our Week of Action video on Counselors Not Cops to learn more.

In St. Louis-MS, the Missouri GSA Network held a rally at Kiener Plaza downtown to call for Counselors Not Cops and Solutions Not Suspensions!

Monday, September 30: Racial Disparities in School Discipline

Across the country, youth of color are being pushed out of school by unwelcoming school environments and harsh discipline policies. On Monday we called attention to the high rates of suspension, expulsion and arrest of Black and Latino students, who are punished more severely than white students for the same behaviors. Click here to watch a video highlighting these disparities.

Local actions continued with a rally at City Hall in Jersey City-NJ hosted by the Statewide Education Organizing Committee to highlight high rates of suspension, while parents held a meeting in Paterson-NJ organized by PEOC and PEF on their campaign to stop out-of-school suspensions and introduce sections of the DSC Model Code.

In Chicago-IL, Project NIA, Illinois Safe Schools Alliance and Chicago Freedom School held a youth panel and town hall forum on school pushout. That same day, the Minnesota Minority Education Project (MMEP) released a policy brief on Protecting Students Human Right to Education which found that almost one in five black male students were suspended at least once in Minneapolis schools in 2012, compared with one in 29 white male students. Twin Cities Save the Kids and MMEP also held a “Push Back on Pushout: Panel Discussion on Schools” in Saint Paul-MN.

In Oakland-CA, the DSC Bay Area Chapter held a Youth Council Meeting, Black Organizing Project held a Pushback on Pushout Potluck and ACLU of Northern California collected stories about how school pushout impacts LGBTQ youth. In New York City-NY, the DSC-NY Chapter kicked off a series of visits with City Council members and other policy-makers throughout the week to gather endorsements for their 2014 Discipline Code policy platform.

Tuesday, October 1: Pushout Policies Impacting LGBTQ Youth

More than 8 out of 10 LGBTQ youth report being verbally harassed about their sexual orientation at school, and 6 out of 10 report feeling unsafe at school. Yet as lawmakers have responded to bullying in schools, they rely on punitive, zero-tolerance approaches, like suspensions and expulsions, that fail to prevent or address bullying behavior. On Tuesday DSC released a video highlighting these pushout policies

In Little Rock, AR, the Center for Artistic Revolution held a press conference on the Capitol steps to bring attention to pushout and disparities in the Arkansas education system. The Georgia Safe Schools Coalition (GSSC) held a film screening of the documentary Valentine Road in Atlanta-GA, followed by a teach-in led by GSSC, Georgia Equality and Gwinnett STOPP. In Mississippi, Sunflower County Parents and Students held a workshop on pushout policies impacting LGBTQ youth, and the Nollie Jenkins Family Center held a community forum with decision-makers on the moratorium on out-of-school suspensions.

In Wake County-NC, Education Justice Alliance, Youth Organizing Institute, and NC HEAT held a press conference at the Wake County School Board meeting to announce their campaign for a moratorium on out of school suspension.

The Youth Justice Coalition visited local middle and high schools in five cities in California to survey students about their struggles with police and sheriffs on public transportation as part of their Transportation is an Educational Right campaign. Twin Cities Save the Kids held a rally and press conference at the Minneapolis School District Office in Minneapolis, MN, and the Portland Parent Union spoke at The Oregon Conference on Youth, Guns and Violence in Portland-OR.

Wednesday, October 2: Restorative Justice

Many of DSC’s members are leading the charge for implementation of Restorative Justice in our schools, an approach to school discipline that emphasizes repairing the harm caused or revealed by misconduct rather than punishment. Watch a short video featuring a clip from Growing Fairness, a documentary on restorative justice by DSC member group Teachers Unite. On Wednesday in Washington-DC, Critical Exposure hosted a film screening and discussion of Growing Fairness.

On that same day, Sistas and Brothas United held a Know Your Rights workshop at the Morris High School Campus in Bronx-NY where students and teachers are implementing restorative justice. In Los Angeles-CA, Youth Justice Coalition held the “We Are Not Criminals” student press conference to call for investment in community intervention workers and peace-builders, not police, in our schools and communities.

Gwinnett SToPP hosted the 1st Annual Graduation March on Georgia in Lawrenceville-GA and FFLIC launched the DSC-New Orleans Chapter and participated in a book signing and discussion of The New Jim Crow with author Michelle Alexander in New Orleans-LA.

In Madison-WI, the YWCA of Madison held their Racial Justice Summit: Race to Equity, and in Dayton-OH, Racial Justice Now held a community forum with candidates for the Dayton School Board. Finally in Bryan-TX, The Brazos County Branch of the NAACP held a community dialogue around new Texas laws on school discipline.

Thursday, October 3: School-wide PBIS

Across the country DSC members are advocating for school districts to adopt a school-wide framework for Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) in order to: promote positive alternatives to suspension, including restorative justice, ensure parent and community participation in discipline, and use data to make decisions and hold schools accountable. A new report on Effective Discipline for Student Success, released by South Carolina Appleseed during the Week of Action, describes the impact of SWPBIS on improving school climate and calls for implementation of PBIS in every school in South Carolina. Watch DSC’s short video on PBIS.

On Thursday, parent members of CADRE visited schools in South Los Angeles-CA to advocate for implementation of the LAUSD’s district-wide PBIS policy. Also in Los Angeles, Youth Justice Coalition, Children's Defense Fund CA and the DSC-LA chapter held a tour of two schools to showcase the unique models they have instituted to limit the role of law enforcement on campuses, and in Fresno-CA, GSA Network of CA held a rally and Youth Speak Out.

Youth on Board/BSAC and the Boston Area Youth Organizing Project gathered youth stories at train stations in Boston, MA to advocate for improvements to school discipline at school committee hearings and the Code of Conduct Advisory Council. Twin Cities Save the Kids held a MN Neighborhoods Organizing for Change event in Minneapoli-MN.

Meanwhile, Power U held a teach-in on Restorative Justice in Miami-FL, ACLU of Pennsylvania held a town hall forum on Solutions Not Suspensions: Youth & Student Rights in Pittsburg-PA, and Racial Justice Now held a community forum with mayoral and city commission candidates in Dayton-OH.

Friday, October 4: Pushout Policies Impacting Immigrant Youth

On day seven, DSC highlighted the impact of heavy police presence and punitive discipline in schools on immigrant and undocumented youth. DSC member Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM) hosted a workshop in New York City, NY entitled Undocumented and Unafraid: Youth Organizing for Policy Change. You can check out DSC’s video on pushout policies and immigrant youth.

In Chicago-IL, COFI/POWER-PAC held a community forum for Parents Taking Action Against School Pushout, and in Los Angeles-CA, the Youth Justice Coalition held their final event of the week with a press conference at Chuco's Justice Center. Also in Los Angeles, Community Rights Campaign held a rally with drums, chants and a visual arts installation at the corner of Wilshire and Western.

In Raleigh-NC, the Education Justice Alliance held its 2nd Annual Youth-led March and Speak-Out to End the School to Prison Pipeline from Washington Elementary to the Central Prison, and in McComb, MS, the McComb Youth Council held an event on school pushout at McComb High School Homecoming.

Saturday, October 5: Invest in Education, Not Incarceration

The Week of Action came to a close with a focus on the need to invest more in education. In the past 20 years, the amount spent on incarceration, parole and probation increased 6 times more than money for colleges and universities. In times of budget cuts and struggling schools, the United States spends 70 billion dollars a year on incarceration. Click here to watch a short video.

On Saturday in Detroit-MI, Youth Voice and The Harriet Tubman Center hosted the 1,000 Forward Detroit Youth Summit, the first of three summits to engage 1,000 Detroit youth this school year who have been suspended. Advance Youth Leadership Power held a teach-in on the impact of the school to prison pipeline on youth with disabilities in Chicago-IL and Twin Cities Save the Kids held a film screening of Jena 6 in Minneapolis-MN.

The Youth Committee of Building Healthy Communities held Tangled: A Community Conversation to Fix School Discipline, featuring a performance and community discussion in Long Beach, CA and the ACLU of PA held Education Not Incarceration: A Community Conversation roundtable in Pittsburg-PA.

In Durham-NC, Hidden Voices put on a play “None of the Above” which explores race, poverty, education policies and incarceration, and in Wake County-NC the Education Justice Alliance, Youth Organizing Institute and NC HEAT held a Get Out the Vote phone banking session for the Wake County School Board Elections on October 8. In Mississippi, the McComb Youth Council held an Art Slam and panel discussion on pushout, and ACER ended the Week of Action with a Teach-In Forum on School Pushout in Winona.

Raising Awareness Across the Country

Throughout the Week of Action, local events generated attention and support from policy-makers, community leaders, scholars and the media. In Louisiana, the newly launched New Orleans Chapter of DSC received an endorsement from Michelle Alexander, Esq., author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.

“I strongly support Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children (FFLIC) as they launch the New Orleans Chapter of Dignity in Schools. They’re calling on local school districts and governmental officials to end out-of-school suspensions for minor infractions and to focus on implementing compassionate solutions that work”, said Alexander.

“It is absolutely essential that we shift away from a purely punitive, zero tolerance approach to dealing with our young people and employ more constructive and restorative practices instead. Young people must be held accountable for normal adolescent behavior like “willful disobedience,” but they should not be forced out of school — a practice that only contributes to high dropout rates, widens the achievement gap, and feeds the school-to-prison pipeline.”

Although the National Week of Action 2013 is now officially over, you can continue to raise awareness and take action to end school pushout in your community!
News Coverage of the 2013 National Week of Action on School Pushout

10/8/13 – Activists Call for Moratorium on Paterson School Suspensions by Samuel Anderson, Associated Press —story reported Nationwide as part of the AP News Wire—

10/8/13 - Long Beach School Board To Consider Administration-Proposed Policy To Monitor And Minimize Disproportionate Suspensions/Expulsions At A Given School And Among Demographic Subgroups by Staff,

10/7/13 – Fourth Annual National Week of Action Against School Pushout Marks the Dignity in Schools Campaign’s Largest Protest, Common Dreams—also reported by E News Park Forest—

10/4/13 – Raleigh Groups March to Reduce Youth Imprisonment by The Associated Press —story reported Nationwide as part of the AP News Wire—

10/4/13 – State Law Encourages Alternatives to School-Based Police While Federal Grants Increase Their Presence by Jane Meredith Adams, EdSource (California) —also reported by New American Media—

10/4/13 – Minnesota Minority Education Partnership Speaks to KFAI Radio about Solutions not Suspensions, KFAI 90. 3 Catalyst Morning Show

10/4/13 – LBUSD Board to Vote on Suspensions, Official Says by NadraNittle, Press-Telegram (Long Beach, CA)

10/4/13 – Morning Education: A daily overview of education policy news by Libby A. Nelson, Politico

10/4/13 – Restorative Justice’s After-School Special by Bryce Stucki, The American Prospect

10/3/13 – Op-Ed: Why I Asked to Repeat Ninth Grade by Taiyana Murray, The Advocate

10/3/13 – Extreme Responses to Bullying Harm Us All by Judith Browne Dianis, Huffington Post

10/3/13 – Taub Foundation Awards $130,000 in Grants for Paterson Reads Program by Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta, Paterson Press (Paterson, NJ)

10/3/13 – Cornerstone Theater Presents Play on School Discipline at Long Beach’s Art Theatre by NadraNittle, Press-Telegram (Long Beach, CA)

10/3/13 – ‘Alarming’ Racial Disparities Continue to Plague Dane County by Dee J. Hall, The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, WI)

10/2/13 – Families March for Graduate Awareness by Staff, American Graduate (Gwinnett County, Georgia)

10/2/13 – None of the Above Examines the School-To-Prison Pipeline Through Both Statistics and Stories by Katie Fernelius, Duke Chronicle (Durham, NC)

10/2/13 – School-to-Prison Pipeline Displayed in Union Art Exhibit by Cory Buhay, The Daily Tar Heel (Chapel Hill, NC)

10/1/13 – Campaign Aims to Keep Students In, Not ‘Push’ Them Out by Chase Niesner, LA School Report (Los Angeles, CA)

10/1/13 – Groups to Call for Moratorium on Wake County School Suspensions by T. Keung Hui, News & Observer (Cary, NC)

10/1/13 – Wake Leaders Advance Policy on Police Questioning Students at School by T. Keung Hui, News & Observer (Cary, NC)

9/30/13 – Candidate Forums Planned by Staff, Dayton Daily News (Dayton, OH)

9/29/13 – Push Back Against School Pushout by Brad Choat, CBS St. Louis (St. Louis, MO)

9/27/13 – Advocacy Group Puts Three Paterson Schools in Statewide Top 10 Ranking by Joe Malinconico, Paterson Press (Paterson, NJ)

9/28/13 – Ohio Parents Outraged that 80% of Suspended Students Are Black: Candidates Asked to Explain, Black Blue Dog (Dayton, OH)

9/27/13 – GSAs Make a Difference by Marcel Neergaard, Huffington Post

9/25/13 – 12th Annual YWCA Racial Justice Summit Will Unveil Important Race to Equity Report by A. David Dahmer, The Madison Times (Madison, WI)

9/25/13 – Expel Check by Rachel Graham Cody, Willamette Week (Portland, OR)

9/25/13 – Paterson’s High School Graduation Rate Continues to Climb by Joe Malinconico, Paterson Press (Paterson, NJ)

9/18/13 – Hidden Voices’ None of the Above Lays Hands on a Social Dilemma of Our Time by Byron Woods, Indy Week (Raleigh, NC)

9/12/13 - When High School Students Are Treated Like Prisoners by Molly Knefel, Rolling Stone (New York, NY)

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Upcoming Events

Alternatives to School Discipline: A New Frontier in Student's Rights
October 22, 2013, 1-2 p.m. Eastern
A free teleconference sponsored by the Children’s Rights Litigation Committee of the ABA Section of Litigation. Click here to register on-line.

New and Revised DSC Model Code

Today the Dignity in Schools Campaign is releasing a revised version of the DSC Model Code on Education and Dignity: Presenting a Human Rights Framework for Schools. The new Code includes new sections on:
- social and emotional learning
- prevention and response to bullying behavior
- ending tickets issued in school
- reducing racial disparities in discipline
- creating safe schools for LGBTQ students
- and more!

You can download the new Model Code here.

DSC Week of Action Videos

Each day during the Week of Action DSC released a short video on a different theme related to school pushout and our solutions. Visit our YouTube page or click on the links below to watch and share the videos with others!

Video - Solutions Not Suspensions

Video - Counselors Not Cops

Video - Racial Disparities in School Discipline

Video - Pushout Policies Impacting LGBTQ Youth

Video - Restorative Justice

Video - School-wide PBIS

Video - Pushout Policies Impacting Immigrant Youth

Video - Invest in Education, Not Incarceration

About the Dignity in Schools Campaign

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 to learn more.

DIGNITY IN SCHOOLS | 90 JOHN ST. STE 308, NEW YORK, NY 10038 | TEL: (212) 253-1710 Ext. 317 | FAX (212) 385-6124 | [email protected]