By Lori Turner , Legal Fellow
As part of our effort to address the so-called school-to-prison pipeline, we are active participants in the Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC), a coalition of advocates, organizers, youths, parents and educators united to reframe the national debate about school climate and discipline from one that favors the punishment and exclusion of children to one based on inclusive school practices and human rights.
DSC held its inaugural national conference in June 2009, the goal of which was to develop a national resolution on ending school pushout. Today, over 180 organizations and individuals from across the country have released the National Resolution for Ending School Pushout, a call to action for our school systems to implement positive, human rights-based alternatives to the degrading school environments and harsh discipline and safety policies that push millions of children out of school each year.
The Resolution is being released as states submit applications for Race to the Top Funds made available under the federal stimulus package. Federal Department of Education Guidelines recommend that states and districts use these funds to promote positive school climates and discipline.
The Resolution points to a range of factors, including excessive suspensions, expulsions, and school arrests, which contribute to the "pushout" crisis in our schools. Students of color and students in poor communities are impacted the most by these policies. According to the American Psychological Association, these punitive, zero-tolerance policies and practices do not improve behavior, but can instead increase the likelihood that students will fall behind academically, have future behavior problems, become withdrawn and dropout of school.
Over the next week, the signatories and supporters of the Resolution will raise awareness in their schools and communities by presenting the Resolution to their school boards, state legislators and federal policy-makers, and by distributing the Resolution at local events, on radio programs and community meetings. We are hopeful that this will be an important step in raising awareness about these critical issues and that the Resolution will be a tool that will lead to a meaningful and productive dialogue on education reform at the local, state and federal level.
Read "Teach (and Treat) our Children Well" in the Huffington Post