Senate Fails to Protect Students’ Human Right to Education


Members of the Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) across the country are disappointed that today, the U.S. Senate voted in favor of a bill that fails to hold states accountable for eliminating discipline disparities and ensuring that all students have access to quality educational opportunities needed to succeed in life. The Senate's bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the Every Child Achieves Act, does nothing to require states to act to ensure that all students are performing well or to close opportunity gaps.

The bill turns its back on the historic federal role maintained throughout the five decades of the ESEA's history, and strips the federal government of any oversight and support role.  Instead, the bill prohibits federal intervention to help states close achievement gaps or end disparities. While we do not support the punitive sanctions of No Child Left Behind, we do endorse a federal role that helps states target and implement services and supports to those students most in need. The bill leaves no recourse for students who are left behind by states or educationally underserved.

"We need strong oversight and accountability from the federal government to make sure that our states and school districts provide the human right to education for all our students. We are extremely disappointed that the Senate has passed a bill that would undermine that federal role and allow states and districts to continue to push our students out of school and down a pipeline to prison," said Zakiya Sankara-Jabar, Executive Director of Racial Justice Now! in Dayton, OH and Co-Chair of the Dignity in Schools Campaign Coordinating Committee.

DSC was also disappointed that several positive amendments were not passed yesterday and today. An amendment from Senator Chris Murphy did not pass that would take some steps to improve accountability by requiring schools to track the performance of certain sub-groups of students (grouped by race/ethnicity, disability status, and English learner status) so that schools are able to identify any students falling behind and intervene to help them. The amendment would have required states to take action to address and remedy any disparities in performance.

Another amendment, based on the Student Non-Discrimination Act to prohibit bullying and harassment of students based upon actual or perceived LGBT status or gender identity, failed in the Senate. We must ensure that schools are safe places where all students can succeed and thrive.  

The DSC also believes that school climate should be a measure of school effectiveness, and this bill failed to ensure that states act to make schools positive and inclusive places. We know that when students are pushed out of school, their life opportunities and outcomes are compromised.  We must embed and implement alternatives to punitive discipline practices like School-wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (SWPBIS), restorative practices, and mental health services and supports.

Read the DSC letter of opposition to the Senate ESEA bill here –