“Blocks Together” Youth to Testify at U.S. Senate Hearing on School-to-Prison Pipeline


We are very pleased to announce that Edward Ward, a youth organizer with Blocks Together, a Dignity in Schools Campaign member organization, has been selected to testify before a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights on “Ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline” on Wednesday, December 12.

Edward is an honor roll student in his sophomore year at DePaul University. He grew up on the West Side of Chicago where he graduated from Orr Academy High School. Edward will be speaking about his experience with school pushout, his involvement with Blocks Together and their work trying to introduce and implement Restorative Justice practices in his school.

The hearing was announced on Tuesday, December 4, by the office of Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights.

This will be the first-ever Congressional hearing on the school-to-prison pipeline and it’s intent is to discuss the alarming rate at which young people are being pushed out of the classroom and into the courts for relatively minor, non-violent offenses.  According to the press release issued by Senator Durbin’s office, “The hearing will explore the problems with the pipeline as well as successful reforms and new initiatives to help end it.”

Community-led organizations like Blocks Together, along with other members of the Dignity in Schools Campaign across the country, have been working to end the school pushout crisis and introduce positive alternatives to harsh suspensions, expulsions and arrests for many years, and this hearing is a result of their work. A dozen or more members of the DSC from different States will also be attending the hearing as audience and will be submitting written testimonies about their experiences with the school-to-prison pipeline and its impact on their communities.

The hearing will take place at 2:00 p.m. EDT, in Room 226 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building and will include two panels:

The first will feature Deborah Delisle, Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education, of the U.S. Department of Education; and Melodee Hanes, Acting Administrator for the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention at the U.S. Department of Justice.

The second, will feature Michael DeWine, Attorney General for the State of Ohio; Steven Teske, Chief Judge of the Juvenile Court of Clayton County, GA; Judith Browne Dianis, Co-Director of the Advancement Project; Andrew Coulson, Director of the Center for Educational Freedom at the Cato Institute; and Edward Ward of Blocks Together.

In addition to the hearing, Senator Durbin’s office has requested that parents, students, educators, and advocates submit written testimony as soon as possible (but not later than 5pm eastern on Monday, Dec. 10th).  Both during and after the hearing, Senators can and may draw on these comments to illustrate why Congress needs to act. 

Click here to download a DSC template you can use to submit comments. You can submit your comments by e-mail to:

Click here to watch a video of Edward speaking at the NEPC conference during the 2011 DSC National Week of Action on School Pushout.