New White House Initiative Builds on Community-Led Efforts to Improve Outcomes for Young Boys and Men of Color

The Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) is excited that the Obama administration has launched the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative and applauds the administration’s strong commitment to invest in a brighter future for our young people, specifically young boys and men of color. It is an important milestone in a movement involving our membership, comprised of students, parents, teachers, community-based organizations and advocates from across the country who are working everyday to ensure that all young people have the human right to a quality education and to be treated with dignity in their schools. 

“Critical to supporting young boys and men of color in reaching their full potential is changing the way our schools approach discipline. The My Brother’s Keeper Initiative builds on federal guidance released in January directing schools to end the racial discrimination in school discipline that leads to Black and Latino boys being suspended, expelled and arrested at higher rates than their peers. Schools must prioritize providing students with counseling, positive interventions and supports to use discipline as a teaching moment and keep students in school,” said Fernando Martinez of the Dignity in Schools Campaign. 

Over the past year, Dignity in Schools Campaign members from Boston to Los Angeles to Greenville, Mississippi have won policy changes to reduce suspensions and arrests in schools and implement positive approaches to discipline proven to reduce disruption and improve educational outcomes for all students.

In Paterson, NJ, the Parent Education Organizing Council (PEOC) and Paterson Education Fund engaged the School Board to pass a resolution instituting a moratorium on out-of-school suspensions for minor Level 1 behaviors, like willful disobedience and violations of the dress code. National research shows that suspensions for these minor, subjective behaviors generate disproportionate rates of exclusion for Black and Latino youth. The Resolution also gave the district one year to implement positive alternatives to suspension. Since then, the district has dramatically increased the number of schools in Paterson using positive behavior interventions and supports.

“We as adults have an obligation to support young people in developing the skills and tools they need to lead healthy and productive lives, rather than school discipline policies that punish and exclude them from the classroom,” added Martinez. 

The DSC has created a Model Code intended to guide school districts around the country to adopt better approaches to discipline, such as restorative justice and positive behavior interventions and supports. When schools protect the right to education and dignity of every student and strive to keep them in school, young people will succeed.