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Civil Rights and Race Relations in America and Their Impact on the Lives of African Americans
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Event Date(s):Tuesday, June 21, 2011 - 12:00am - Friday, June 24, 2011 - 11:00pm
This week Rachel Kleinman, Leticia Smith-Evans, and Matthew Cregor, attorneys from the Education Practice Group, will be testifying before government officials on some of the most critical issues in elementary, secondary and higher education. Following is a list of their hearings and briefing:
- Tuesday - Rachel Kleinman testifying at NYC Dept. of Ed hearing re: student discipline code (Read her Testimony -PDF)
- Thursday - Leticia Smith-Evans speaking on race +_gender disparities in discipline as part of NWLC briefing for 39th anniversary of Title IX, hosted by Sen. Al Franken
- Friday - Matthew Cregor speaking at briefing on ESEA and the STPP, hosted by Sen. Bernard Sanders
High Suspension Rates and Zero Tolerance in NYC Schools Propel Students, Parents and Teachers to Take Action
Tuesday, June 21st
Tweed Courthouse (DOE)
52 Chambers Street – New York, NY
Press Conference: 5:15 p.m.
Hearing to follow press conference
New York, NY - Over 100 students, parents, educators, advocates and elected officials are speaking out against rising suspensions and demanding positive alternatives at a press conference and public hearing on proposed revisions to the NYC Department of Education’s Discipline Code.
Suspensions in NYC have increased at an alarming rate. Between 2001 and 2010, the number of infractions in the Discipline Code increased by 49% and the number of zero tolerance infractions requiring a suspension increased by 200%. In 2008-2009, there were 73,000 suspensions in NYC public schools. These punitive policies target students of color at higher rates, contributing to the achievement gap and low graduation rates. Black students, who make up 33% of the population, received 53% of suspensions. Research by the American Psychological Association has shown that children who are suspended are more prone to fall behind in school, be held back, drop out and become incarcerated as adults.
In the last two years, as a result of advocacy from members of DSC-NY, the Department of Education has made some positive changes to the Discipline Code. Last year, restorative justice approaches and Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) were added to the Code for the first time, and the automatic suspension for fighting was changed to give principals the option to use parent conferences instead. This year, the Level 4 fighting infraction has been revised to exclude minor altercations, directing schools to use less severe suspensions or alternatives identified under Level 3 of the Code. However, schools are still given wide discretion to enact severe suspensions as they see fit for a wide range of often minor misbehavior, resulting in high suspension rates and detrimental outcomes for students. For example, students can receive up to 10 day suspensions for “leaving class” or “being insubordinate” and up to 90 days for “sexually suggestive comments” or for fighting that does not result in serious injury. The DOE hearing happens once a year to get public input before the new Discipline Code is released in September. DSC-NY is calling for the Office of School and Youth Development to hold monthly meetings with communities throughout the year to gather input and monitor implementation of the Code.
Schools around the nation that have implemented positive alternatives to suspensions, like conflict resolution, restorative justice practices, and PBIS, have seen reductions of up to 50% in suspensions and violent incidents, and increases in teacher satisfaction and academic outcomes. Schools in New York City are also beginning to implement these positive approaches. Speakers at the press conference will include students and a high school principal who is implementing restorative justice practices at his school. LDF attorney Rachel Kleinman will deliver testimony during the discipline code hearing following the press conference.
Title IX and School Reform: Addressing Bullying and Harassment and Excessive Discipline in Schools
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Senate Dirksen Building, Room 430
To effectively prepare students for college and careers, a school must create and maintain a positive and safe environment conducive to learning for all students. Bullying and harassment rob students of security and stability at school which can seriously impact their ability to learn and succeed. Indeed, feeling unsafe at school has been correlated with declining academic performance, skipping class, and dropping out.
At the same time, school disciplinary rates are now the highest they have been in our nation’s history. Exclusionary discipline practices are used disproportionately against boys and girls of color and students with disabilities. And exclusionary discipline practices keep students out of the classroom where they need to be in order to learn, affecting academic performance and increasing the likelihood of dropout.
To comply with civil rights laws like Title IX, and to be successful, schools must prevent and address harassment in all its forms and ensure that disciplinary policies and practices are reasonable and implemented fairly. On the 39th Anniversary of Title IX, please join us for a discussion of these critical issues and recommendations to improve school climate for all students.
Fatima Goss Graves (moderator)
Vice-President for Education & Employment National Women’s Law Center
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education
Assistant Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
Senior Legislative Counsel, ACLU
Julie F. Mead
Professor and Chair, Department of Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Sponsored by U.S. Senator Bernard Sanders
Friday, June 24, 2011
11:00 – 12:00
Senate Dirksen Room 562
Harsh school discipline policies, unnecessary bars to learning, and the improper use of tests, have pushed many students out of school. Some Federal education policies exacerbate this problem, but smarter initiatives could increase the likelihood of academic success. ESEA reauthorization provides a tremendous opportunity for policy changes that can help to get students back on track.
This briefing will explore the recent recommendations for changes to federal education law issued by six education, civil rights and youth justice organizations on key policy issues, including accountability, assessment, discipline, school climate and school re-entry.
Assistant Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
Supervising Attorney, Juvenile Law Center, Philadelphia
Executive Director, FairTest
a student representative from the Alliance for Educational Justice
Legislative Assistant, Office of U.S. Senator Bernard Sanders