Winning praise from civil rights advocates, the U.S. Department of Education released new federal guidelines Wednesday aimed at stopping an explosion in student suspensions, expulsions and referrals to the criminal-justice system.
The ideas are a response to mounting concerns that overly punitive discipline is pushing too many low-income and minority students out of schools and toward failure rather than helping them engage academically. The Department of Education and the Department of Justice teamed up in a two-year effort to develop lists of resources and principles that educators have found effective at keeping campuses orderly without resorting to kicking out kids.
The package is intended to help schools chart new practices. Federal officials also emphasize that educators are obliged not to violate students' civil rights when punishing them. The package also provides resources for school police training and employee training in discipline techniques considered more productive than ejecting kids.
The Center for Public Integrity has reported on hot spots where high numbers of low-income Latino and black students have been subjected to lengthy expulsions from school for relatively minor infractions. Last year, the Center reported that expelled children of Latino farmworkers in California, for example, were dispatched to alternative schools so far from their homes — 20 miles, even 40 miles — that they dropped out or were told to only report to school only one day a week for a year.
The U.S. departments of Education and Justice both have civil rights offices that have stepped up investigations into complaints of disparate and harsh disciplinary practices affecting special-education students and ethnic-minority children. Complaints have included excessive suspensions of black children compared to white children accused of the same cell phone use violations.
“Everyone understands that school leaders need to have effective policies in place to make their campuses safe havens where learning can actually flourish,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in an announcement Wednesday. “Yet most exclusionary and disciplinary actions are for non-violent student behaviors, many of which once meant a phone call home.”
In his own statement, U.S Attorney General Eric Holder said: “A routine school disciplinary infraction should land a student in the principal’s office, not in a police precinct.”
The Center has also investigated school police crackdowns on children, including roundups inside schools in California and Utah conducted by police accused of targeting only black and Latino students. Lawsuits filed by civil rights lawyers accused police of violating the rights of students who had committed no infractions and were wrongly accused of gang affiliations and forced to pose for mock mug shots inside schools.
In Los Angeles, a series of Center reports showed that the L.A. Unified School Police Department — the nation’s largest school police force — was ticketing more than 10,000 students a year until recently, mostly in low-income neighborhoods. Kids were often cited for arriving tardy or for disturbing the peace. Nearly half of those court citations went to children 14 or younger. Juvenile court judges urged reforms at schools they said were too quick to involve police rather than resolving conflicts at school and through counseling.
The Center interviewed the family of a Los Angeles boy, 12, who was arrested and charged with assault after teachers asked police to respond to a fight between the boy a friend. The boy had never been in trouble before. The school later apologized, but the boy’s record will remain in police files until he is 18. L.A. Unified police announced last November that they will no longer ticket kids 12 and younger, with some exceptions.
Over the last couple of years, the Department of Education has sounded an alarm over a sharp rise in out-of-school suspensions and expulsions nationally of students, especially minority kids, as revealed by the department’s Civil Rights Data Collection. Longitudinal research, including a major study in Texas, found that suspensions were linked to academic failure and higher risk of serious legal trouble rather than improving student behavior.
The release of the new federal discipline guidelines Wednesday was met with applause from advocates who have been lobbying local school districts and state legislatures to adopt limits on school discipline practices and the role of school police.
In California, Laura Faer, statewide education rights director of Public Counsel, a public interest law firm, praised the guidelines as “groundbreaking.” She said they will send a message to schools and state lawmakers to help students succeed by requiring the use of “positive school discipline practices.”
“Far too many students of color are suspended and expelled,” said Faer, whose group is helping the San Francisco Unified School District with new policies to address an alarming rate of suspensions of black students.
At the University of California at Los Angeles’ Civil Rights Project, whose data analysis has charted sharp racial disparities in suspensions, lead researcher Dan Losen said: “This guidance represents a huge boost to the efforts of advocates across the nation, and contributes to the growing understanding that dramatic racial disparities are found most often in minor offense categories that are not justifiable.”
A statement from the American Civil Liberties Union said the guidelines “provide provide important guiding principles” when it comes to school police and “their proper role with respect to discipline. This includes improved training and a clear delineation of roles so that officers are not responsible for handling minor discipline.”
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, has become a supporter of more training for educators on how to handle troubled students without resorting to out-of-school suspensions. But her comment suggested that schools need funding to help them adopt alternative policies. “The federal government made many positive suggestions,” she reportedly said, “but policies in a vacuum without actual resources and support will not succeed."
Link to original article from The Center for Public Integrity
Let’s say that at the end of the day, liberals face a choice: Which is worse, extended sequestration or a Grand Bargain that cuts Social Security and Medicare in exchange for new revenues, as Obama’s forthcoming budget seems designed to secure?
The massive federal budget cuts that will start Friday as part of the "sequester" will damage our economic recovery and mean fewer services here in Southern Arizona. Strip away the conservative economic theories and party-line rhetoric and that's the reality we're facing.
Comprehensive immigration reform could go down as one of the most overlooked, overdue priorities Washington has ever let slide.
Washington, D.C. – This morning 107 House Democrats – a majority of the House Democratic Caucus – wrote President Obama urging him to reject any proposals to cut the Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits millions of American families depend upon.
Washington, D.C. – Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva today highlighted the introduction by Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wisc.) of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, a bill to reinstate the law that protected women from domestic violence until the House Republican majority allowed it to lapse in 2011.
A coalition of more than 200 environmental and progressive groups is urging President Obama to nominate Rep. Raul Grijalva, an outspoken liberal, to be the next Interior Secretary.
Liberal House Democrats on Thursday warned Republicans and President Barack Obama that including a change to how the government calculates cost-of-living adjustments could serve as a poison pill for any fiscal deal.
Washington, D.C. – Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva today released the following statement on the potential inclusion of a so-called chained Consumer Price Index feature in the latest floated version of a financial agreement: “Federal law has always prohibited Social Security from contributing to the deficit. Any talk of shrinking the program to ‘save money’ is flawed from the start because Social Security is not part of the national budget...."
Washington, D.C. – Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva today released the following statement on the recent school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
“When a man kills twenty children and seven others for no reason other than his own demons, the immediate human response is the same anywhere: deep pain, grief, anger and frustration. In the United States, unfortunately, such a tragedy carries an added weight because it is not unique.
Washington, D.C. – A report released this morning by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), originally requested by Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), highlights billions of dollars in lost public royalty revenue from oil and gas extraction on federal lands and describes glaring shortfalls in the data publicly available on hardrock mineral extraction on those lands.
Washington, D.C. – Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) today led 39 CPC members in introducing the Deal for All. The Deal for All presents the Caucus’ basic principles for resolving tax and budget issues Congress will need to address after the November election, and will serve as a framework for progressives during the negotiations.
Washington, D.C. – Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva today released the following statement on the Supreme Court’s ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act:
Raul Grijalva, co-chair of the seventy-six-member Congressional Progressive Caucus and one of the most powerful liberals in America, is no poster boy for Washington protocol. When he and his wife, Mona, arrived for his swearing-in ceremony in 2003, a man in military uniform met them at the airport and addressed him as “Congressman.” Grijalva, elected to represent Arizona’s Seventh District, promptly got the giggles.
Washington, D.C. – Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva will host a press conference on Tuesday, March 27, to unveil a “friend of the court” brief in the Supreme Court’s Arizona v. United States case, which will decide the constitutionality of Arizona’s infamous SB 1070 law. The amicus curiae brief, co-signed by 67 of Rep. Grijalva’s House colleagues, argues that the law is unconstitutional because, as courts have held consistently, federal immigration law pre-empts any state-level standards.
The 2012 elections are an opportunity to turn things around here in Arizona.
The state's working people are sick and tired of the right-wing extremists who misgovern Arizona. Gov. Jan Brewer and the overwhelmingly Republican Legislature are at war against the people of Arizona.
When the president addresses the economy in the State of the Union, he needs to offer more than optimism, and I think he will. The conservative House majority is going to reject anything he offers sight unseen – that’s no secret – but that’s no reason for the president not to make a strong case to the country that he understands the problem and has a solution mapped out.
Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D) and Democracy for America, a progressive PAC, have endorsed Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Donna Edwards (D-Md.) in their 2012 reelection races.
Our guest on Newsmakers was Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. He gives the House Progressives’ perspective on what’s next for deficit reduction, federal spending and legislative priorities overall, after the deficit "Super Committee" failed to come to an agreement. The Progressive Caucus said this week it will present its own plan for deficit reduction and jobs.
The Native American community has a long, troubled history with mining interests, and today that history is catching up with us in Arizona. From a new push for uranium mining at the Grand Canyon to the ongoing battle over Resolution Copper, it’s not too much to say my home state tribes are under siege.
Washington, D.C. – Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva and Keith Ellison today released the following statement on President Obama’s job creation and deficit reduction plan: