The message was clear on the morning of Tuesday, August 21: Not one more student should miss critical learning time due to harsh and unnecessary out-of-school suspensions.
At a Los Angeles, CA press conference held at Chuco’s Justice Center, the Dignity in Schools Campaign stood together with the Opportunity to Learn Campaign to call for a moratorium on out-of-school suspensions in an effort to address the nationwide pushout crisis facing our schools.
The press conference featured representatives of sixteen DSC member organizations from California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi and New York who voiced their support for the moratorium and shared powerful stories from both students and parents who had experienced harsh discipline policies that pushed students out of school rather than supporting them in reaching their full potential.
“As a young person I have seen firsthand where harsh school discipline practices lead youth—out into the streets and juvenile halls,” said Tanisha Dennard of the Youth Justice Coalition. “This is why I have been working with other youth to change the system and make sure that all youth get a quality education, including those like me that the school system gave up on.”
“Students feel discouraged from learning and excelling in an environment where they see their peers treated unfairly, where the expectations of them are low, and the environment is chaotic,” said Jade Woods a senior at Price High School and recipient of the Children’s Defense Fund’s Beat the Odds scholarship who spoke at the press conference. “It is no coincidence that schools with a higher number of suspensions and expulsions also have a lower number of graduates and overall educational attainment,” she added.
We also heard the facts and figures, painting a picture of an educational system too dependent on the use of overly punitive discipline practices that are disproportionally targeting marginalized communities, particularly Black and Latino boys, students of color, students with disabilities and LGBT students.
“Every year, 3.3 million students in the United States are suspended from school, causing them to lose instruction time, fall behind on their studies, and in many cases lead them to dropout or end up in the juvenile justice system,” said Marlyn Tillman of Gwinnett STOPP, who also spoke before campaign members and the press. “Our Black and Latino students, and students with disabilities are disproportionately targeted by suspensions and are also more likely to be punished more severely than white students for typical student misbehavior.”
We know that punitive discipline practices deepen the achievement gap, contribute to high dropout rates and increase the likelihood of student arrests and referrals to the juvenile justice system. This cannot continue, and that is why DSC stood together with our allies that day to launch the Solutions Not Suspensions initiative and will continue to build the movement for a moratorium on out-of-school suspensions.
As a tool for implementing the moratorium and providing solutions to the pushout crisis, DSC also released its Model Code on Education and Dignity, a set of recommended policies and practices that schools, districts and states can adopt. Where the moratorium focuses on ending negative practices, the Model Code offers positive alternatives to replace them with.
“It was the 300,000 suspensions given each year in Louisiana that urged FFLIC to join this campaign in developing a Model Code for Education and Dignity,” said Damekia Morgan of Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children (FFLIC). “The Code presents a human rights vision for education and school discipline that recognizes that the goal of education must be to support each and every child in reaching his or her full potential, and that schools must treat parents, students and all members of the school community with dignity.”
A parent from Chicago spoke about the difference that a positive school environment with practices like those described in the Model Code made for her daughter. Rosazlia Grilier, a parent leader with COFI/POWER-PAC explained, “in an alternative school with a good climate and caring staff, my daughter completed in one year what she could not accomplish in three years in a disruptive environment.”
The day before the press conference, DSC held an in-depth training on the Model Code. Participants in the training–coming from cities across the country– brought their energy and enthusiasm, learning all they could about the extensive document in order to bring the information back to their communities.
In response to the launch of the moratorium and Model Code, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) issued a statement pledging to work with DSC and the Solutions Not Suspensions initiative to reduce the reliance on suspensions and promote positive alternatives. “The AFT looks forward to working with Solutions Not Suspensions and others committed to confronting problems associated with out-of-school suspension, particularly its disproportionate effect on some students, and to building school environments that help all students succeed,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten.
With the energy, commitment and expertise of DSC membership and our allies, the coming months will surely bring successes in our efforts to end the pushout crisis in our schools. Will you join us?
News Coverage, Video and Photos of Solutions Not Suspensions Launch
Find out more about “Solutions Not Suspensions: A Call for a Moratorium on Out-of-School Suspensions”.
Read about the “Solutions Not Suspensions” launch in EdWeek .
Read about the “Solutions Not Suspensions” launch in La Opinion (Spanish).
Watch video footage of the Los Angeles press conference.
View photos from the Los Angeles press conference.
Read the AFT’s statement on Solutions Not Suspensions Launch.
Download the DSC Model Code.