"Solutions Not Suspensions" Launched
Dignity in Schools Campaign, Opportunity to Learn Campaign, With National Allies, Launch “Solutions Not Suspensions,” Call for Halt on Out-of-School SuspensionsLOS ANGELES, Calif. — A grassroots initiative of students, educators, parents, and community leaders, joined by more than 50 partners and allies, have today launched a national call for a moratorium on out-of-school suspensions and for schools to adopt more constructive disciplinary policies that benefit students, classrooms and communities. The nationwide call, announced at an event led by the Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) and the Opportunity to Learn Campaign in Los Angeles today, comes as recently released federal data revealed that Black and Latino students and students with disabilities are disproportionately targeted by suspensions, and are likely to be punished more severely than white students for minor, subjective misbehavior. This method of disciplinary action, the group argues, deepens the achievement gap, contributes to high dropout rates and increases the likelihood of student arrests and referrals to the juvenile justice system. “At a time when we should be expanding learning opportunities for all young people we are cutting classroom time for those who need it most,” said Jermaine Banks, a student organizer with Power U Center for Social Change, a Miami, FL-based education and social justice organization. “The harsh discipline policies now in place around the country do not make schools safer nor improve academic achievement, but instead feed the school to prison pipeline,” he added. “Rather than pushing young people out, student-centered approaches to discipline push them forward. Adopting this moratorium will give us the opportunity to work with our schools, school boards and state legislators to implement these positive approaches and evaluate them based on each state’s needs,” said Damekia Morgan, a parent and organizer with Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children (FFLIC) a member organization of the Dignity in Schools Campaign. As part of the initiative, the partners have established a website – www.stopsuspensions.org – that will serve as a clearinghouse for information on effective alternatives to suspension, and give supporters an opportunity to add their voice to the call for a moratorium. The Dignity in Schools Campaign has also released a set of model school discipline policies that provide guidelines to help districts and schools implement the moratorium and phase in positive alternatives. “The moratorium gives schools and districts the time and space to try out proven alternatives to out-of school-suspension that hold students accountable in constructive ways,” said Dr. Joseph Bishop, Director of Policy, Opportunity to Learn Campaign. “Solutions Not Suspensions promotes programs and support mechanisms that equip teachers and school administrators with effective alternatives to suspension that empower them to keep young people in school and learning.” Following the August 21st launch, the partners involved in this initiative will be supporting communities around the country to identify opportunities for implementing the positive, student-centered policies outlined in this call, as well as the DSC Model Code. Additionally, the partners in this initiative are offering support to schools and districts, based on the best practices and experiences of the parents, students and educators trained in alternative discipline practices like Restorative Justice and Positive Behavior Intervention Supports. “Every child has a right to a quality education and equal opportunity to reach their full potential. Schools should be a place for young people to learn, not just basic math, language and science but also positive life-lessons learned both from their successes and mistakes,” said Eddie Madison, a parent organizer with Community Asset Development Redefining Education (CADRE), a South Los Angeles-based parent organization and a member of the Dignity in Schools Campaign. “We believe that by putting in place a moratorium on out-of-school suspensions and giving teachers and administrators the support they need to implement effective in-school disciplinary alternatives, we can work together towards a vision that transforms the educational outcomes of our neighborhoods and cities in a positive way,” he added.