Learning How to “Stay in School” Until Graduation

Wilmington parents and students are learning strategies to respond to overly harsh discipline policies, avoid suspensions and expulsions, and increase the odds of graduation from high school as a result of the new ACLU of Delaware Stay in School Project.

Raising Awareness of the School to Prison Pipeline

On Wednesday, February 15th the ACLU of Delaware was asked to present at a Parent’s Night for the Carrera Youth Achievement Program at the West End Neighborhood House. Our presentation on the School to Prison Pipeline was very well received by 29 parents, students, and staff of the program.

Parents were given copies of our newly published Help Your Child Stay in School guide which outlines strategies for parents and guardians to understand and advocate for their children in school discipline procedures.

The takeaway from the event was that increasing knowledge of how to handle school discipline issues in Delaware is a must. The overwhelming majority of attendee’s were not surprised by Delaware’s disturbingly high school discipline statistics, and many had their own stories of negative school discipline experiences to share.

We really appreciated the presentation. [It] gave our parents a chance to realistically look at how schools and discipline policies impact our children.” said Anita McCray, Education Coordinator of the Carrera Program. “We had parents asking questions, asking for more information and copies of the statistics.”

Upcoming Stay In School Project Initiatives

The Parent’s Night at West End is the first of many Stay in School Project events and initiatives. This month, Stay in School Project Coordinator, Alexandria Nedd, will begin teaching student workshops for middle school students at the Carrera Program as well as at two other Wilmington locations.

Through interactive lessons and activities the Stay in School workshops aim to:

  • Introduce students to the School to Prison Pipeline;
  • Provide students with a safe environment to talk about school discipline issues;
  • Educate students about their rights and how they apply in schools; and
  • Empower youth to avoid disciplinary action through the use of anger and conflict management skills and knowledge of their schools’ Code of Student Conduct.

The workshops are designed for middle and early high school students because the majority of students that drop out of high school, 43%, do so in the 9th grade. Teaching students to avoid disciplinary action in middle school is crucial to preventing drop out, as well as police and court involvement.

We are also developing convenient wallet-sized Know Your Rights in Delaware Schools palm cards to be distributed to students.

Increasing awareness of school discipline issues and providing at-risk students and their parents with guidelines and tips on how to address these issues will lower suspension, expulsion, and school based arrest rates and help students to stay in school until graduation.

The Carrera Program

The Carerra Youth Achievement Program is a free after-school program for 6th, 7th and 8th grade Wilmington students. Year round programming is provided in life skills training, family life and sexual health education, and self expression through the arts, as well as counseling and daily homework help.

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