Yesterday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee unanimously passed its Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization bill, the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015, with all Committee Democrats and Republicans voting for the bill (22-0). The Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) was pleased to see some school climate and discipline reform provisions included in the bill, such as:
- Requirement of a needs assessment to be conducted with the involvement of community-based organizations, parents, and students, among other stakeholders, to design interventions to improve school climate and discipline.
- Federal limitations on the use of restraint and seclusion for only the most serious emergency situations.
- Support for expansion of school-based mental health programs, Schoolwide Positive Behavioral Interventions, trauma-informed care, and early-intervening services.
- Professional development funding to improve classroom management skills.
However, DSC is disappointed that amendments that would have helped to address the School-to-Prison pipeline were not agreed to, such as:
- An amendment by Senator Chris Murphy that would have supported the continuum of services between education systems and the juvenile justice system to improve educational services and reduce youth involvement with the juvenile justice system.
- An amendment by Senator Al Franken, based upon his Student Non-Discrimination Act, to prohibit bullying and harassment on the basis of actual or perceived LGBTQ status.
We look forward to continuing to work with members of the Senate to ensure that the ESEA reauthorization bill truly promotes inclusion, accountability, and success for all students. We must have a bill that holds states accountable for addressing and eliminating discipline disparities that impact the life outcomes of students, particularly students of color, LGBTQ students and students with disabilities. We look forward to working with Congress to forge a path forward that will ensure that schools are safe and inclusive places where all students can learn and thrive.