ACLU-DE Convenes ‘Coalition For Fairness & Equity In Schools’

UPDATE (06/11/14)— Both New Castle County Council and Wilmington City Council passed resolutions supporting the Coalition and asking that school districts across the state implement the Coalition’s recommendations. More information can be found here.

INEQUITY IN DELAWARE’S SCHOOL DISCIPLINE PRACTICES

Delaware, like many states around the country, is part of a disturbing national trend known as the “school to prison School Desk Prisonpipeline.” In the 2012-2013 school year, public school students in Delaware received in- or out-of-school suspensions at a rate of 39%, including students who were removed from school on multiple occasions. The number of individual students suspended or expelled during that same time period was 18,053, or 13.7% of the overall Delaware student population. Students with disabilities are being suspended from school at about twice the rate of their peers. Astoundingly, while only about 10% of the children in Delaware’s public schools have an identified disability, over 70% of juvenile offenders struggle with behavioral/mental/emotional issues and/or substance abuse, and almost 50% have serious learning disabilities.

The odds for suspension and expulsion soar even higher depending on the students’ race. African American and Latino students are suspended 3-4 times more than their white peers, even when they represent a substantially low enrollment rate overall. Research shows that extended absences and exclusionary practices cause students, many of whom are already struggling academically, to fall behind and never catch up. This leads to a series of issues that negatively affect their lives and the community as a whole.

NEW FEDERAL GUIDELINES

New federal discipline guidance developed jointly by the US Department of Education and the US Department of Justice instructs schools to commit to regular evaluation of the school discipline policies and practices, and to monitor progress toward the schools climate and discipline goals. This process requires schools to first collect and publicly report disaggregated student discipline data, and to solicit feedback from students, staff, families, and community representatives. Schools should involve the full array of community stakeholders in reviewing and analyzing disciplinary data.

THE COALITION FOR FAIRNESS & EQUITY IN SCHOOLS

Over the past several months, ACLU-DE has convened a diverse group of community members focused on eliminating the use of zero tolerance practices and ending discriminatory practices. The Coalition For Fairness & Equity In Schools seeks to partner with districts and schools to implement the following recommendations:

  • Request public annual release of discipline data for each district and school, including disaggregated data, types of offences, data by grade level and length of time for ISS and OSS.
  • Create district level community-based advisory committees to annually review discipline policies and data, and provide recommendations that promote equity and restorative strategies.
  • Create school level teams (school staff, parents, community advocates, and student representatives) in schools with excessive or disparate discipline rates.
  • Increase professional development opportunities for school personnel focused on cultural competency, classroom management, trauma-informed interventions and asset development, including a follow-up component to monitor effectiveness.
  • Provide advocacy training to families in various venues that include topics such as school codes of conduct, asset development, cultural competency and leadership opportunities sponsored by school districts.
  • Create student-led councils to provide input and leadership that support positive behavior.

More information about the Coalition can be found here. Contact Community & Project Organizer Shannon Griffin for further details.

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