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October 3, 2014 2

California Takes Lead In Ending School-To-Prison Pipeline

Cal­i­for­nia has once again shown itself to be a leader in pro­mot­ing civil rights and equal­ity for all by ban­ning school sus­pen­sions for K-3rd grade stu­dents and expul­sions for all stu­dents under the sub­jec­tive and often-abused “will­ful defi­ance” stan­dard in the Edu­ca­tion Code.  As part of our mis­sion to fight big­otry of all kinds, ADL has had a long his­tory of sup­port­ing equal access to qual­ity edu­ca­tion for all students—the goal promised in the land­mark Brown v. Board of Edu­ca­tion Supreme Court rul­ing in 1954.  This momen­tous change in Cal­i­for­nia law, which ADL proudly sup­ported, will bring us a sig­nif­i­cant step closer to that ideal.school-to-prison-pipeline

The new law spec­i­fies that a pub­lic school stu­dent in grades 6–12 may be sus­pended for will­ful defiance—which can be as minor as a dress code vio­la­tion or fail­ure to hand in homework—only after the third offense in a school year, and pro­vided that other means of resolv­ing the behav­ioral prob­lems were first attempted.  The law also pro­hibits a school from rec­om­mend­ing that stu­dent for expul­sion solely for will­ful defi­ance.  The law now encour­ages schools to invest in chil­dren rather than resort­ing to harsh out-of-school dis­ci­pline for rel­a­tively minor offenses.  Its pas­sage will ensure that stu­dents remain where they need to be—in class—and not on the streets or in the crim­i­nal jus­tice system.

Although there are many fac­tors that con­tribute to a student’s inabil­ity to thrive in school, the cycle of sus­pen­sions and expul­sions is among the best indi­ca­tors of which stu­dents will drop out.  Stu­dents who drop out of school have more dif­fi­culty find­ing gain­ful employ­ment, have much lower earn­ing power when they are employed, and ulti­mately are more likely to wind up in the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem.  This trou­bling phenomenon—which dis­pro­por­tion­ately impacts stu­dents of color, stu­dents with dis­abil­i­ties, and stu­dents who iden­tify as les­bian, gay, bisex­ual or trans­gen­der—has become known as the “school-to-prison pipeline.”  Work­ing to dis­man­tle the pipeline has become a key focus of ADL’s civil rights and edu­ca­tion agendas.

Both the Los Ange­les Uni­fied School Dis­trict and the San Fran­cisco Uni­fied School Dis­trict have already com­pletely banned sus­pen­sions and expul­sions for will­ful defi­ance, tak­ing a sig­nif­i­cant step towards dis­man­tling the school-to-prison pipeline.  California’s new statewide law will sun­set in three and a half years.  Dur­ing this time, ADL will be work­ing with coali­tion part­ners on new bills and ini­tia­tives to strengthen pro­tec­tions for stu­dents and develop addi­tional alter­na­tive meth­ods for chang­ing neg­a­tive stu­dent behav­iors with pos­i­tive interventions.

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October 3, 2014 0

Sectarian Legislative Prayer – Walking In The Religious Minority’s Shoes

The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent leg­isla­tive prayer deci­sion (Greece v. Gal­loway) gen­er­ally sanc­tions sec­tar­ian prayers before meet­ings of local leg­isla­tive bod­ies except for the most egre­gious cir­cum­stances.  In oppos­ing the Court’s deci­sion, Jus­tice Elana Kagan astutely con­cluded that “[w]hen the cit­i­zens of this coun­try approach their gov­ern­ment, they do so only as Amer­i­cans, not as mem­bers of one faith or another.  And that means that even in a partly leg­isla­tive body, they should not con­front government-sponsored wor­ship that divides them along reli­gious lines.”  At a recent county com­mis­sion meet­ing, a local com­mis­sioner may have expe­ri­enced the les­son of Jus­tice Kagan’s admonition.seal-of-escambia-county

The Escam­bia County, FL Com­mis­sion allows sec­tar­ian invo­ca­tions at its pub­lic meet­ings by a com­mu­nity mem­ber of any faith or reli­gion.  At the Sep­tem­ber 25th Com­mis­sion meet­ing, David Suhor, who is Pagan, recited a pagan prayer song “call­ing of the direc­tions north, east, south and west.”  Regard­ing his prayer, Mr. Suhor later stated “[i]n a way I would like for other peo­ple to expe­ri­ence what it’s like when I go to a meet­ing and am asked to pray against my conscience.”

Mr. Suhor’s prayer appar­ently offended at least one per­son in the room. Accord­ing to a news report, County Com­mis­sioner Wil­son Robert­son, “left the room because of his Chris­t­ian beliefs,” and he stated “[p]eople may not real­ize it, but when we invite some­one a min­is­ter to pray they are pray­ing for the county com­mis­sion­ers for us to make wise deci­sions and I’m just not going to have a pagan or satanic min­is­ter pray for me.”

ADL opposes sec­tar­ian leg­isla­tive prayer prac­tices because of the reli­gious exclu­sion and divi­sion result­ing from them – par­tic­u­larly for reli­gious minori­ties.  If the com­mis­sioner does not want a com­mu­nity mem­ber to pray for him in a faith that offends his con­science, per­haps he and other com­mis­sion mem­bers should adopt a moment of silence pol­icy or at least a non-sectarian invo­ca­tion policy.

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October 2, 2014 2

Details Emerge On Anti-Semitic Gathering In Tehran

As Iran’s 2nd New Hori­zon Con­fer­ence wraps up in Tehran, new infor­ma­tion is emerg­ing about con­fer­ence atten­dees, who included U.S. and inter­na­tional anti-Semites, Holo­caust deniers and anti-war activists.

In his open­ing speech, Nader Tale­bzadeh, the direc­tor of the New Hori­zon Con­fer­ence, explained the goal of the con­fer­ence as, “dis­trib­ut­ing the arti­cles and thoughts of top intel­lec­tu­als and philoso­phers world­wide among Iran­ian uni­ver­si­ties and artists,” and that, “The emer­gence of ide­ol­ogy of crit­i­ciz­ing the dom­i­nance of the Zion­ist lobby over the USA and EU, which is going to make some changes in the West, has made it an essen­tial and attrac­tive sub­ject to learn.” Tale­bzadeh added in an inter­view on the side­lines of the con­fer­ence to a Press TV cor­re­spon­dent that, “These are the peo­ple [the atten­dees] that are cen­sored in the West” for their views, which include pro­mot­ing anti-Semitic con­spir­acy the­o­ries and Holo­caust denial.

Press TV also con­ducted an inter­view with Wayne Mad­sen, a U.S. anti-Semitic con­spir­acy the­o­rist, who claimed that the U.S. gov­ern­ment and Con­gress are under Zion­ist con­trol, “The Israeli agenda, which the Chris­t­ian and Jew­ish Zion­ists adopt one hun­dred per­cent, is what is sold to mem­bers of Con­gress, and that devel­ops into leg­is­la­tion, res­o­lu­tions; no one votes against any­thing [the Zion­ists] put up as far as a resolution.”

Among the speak­ers on the first day of the con­fer­ence was anti-Israel jour­nal­ist Garth Porter. In his speech to the atten­dees, Porter lev­eled accu­sa­tions against Israel, the Mossad and CIA for man­u­fac­tur­ing the Iran­ian nuclear cri­sis. Brazil­ian jour­nal­ist Pepe Esco­bar echoed Porter’s mes­sage and pre­dicted that Iran will become more active in world affairs as its stature and influ­ence in the region increases.

On the sec­ond day of the con­fer­ence, Art Olivier, a U.S. 9/11 con­spir­acy the­o­rist and film­maker, pro­moted his upcom­ing film about the life of pro-Palestinian activist Rachel Cor­rie. The film, Olivier said, will allow young Amer­i­cans “to see the real­ity of Rachel’s life which hap­pened 11 years ago and are going to real­ize the atroc­ity of Zion­ist actions against Pales­tini­ans and the peo­ple of Gaza.” Olivier also pro­moted the anti-Semitic canard that the U.S. film indus­try and Hol­ly­wood in par­tic­u­lar are under the dom­i­na­tion of Zionists.

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CODEPINK co-founder Medea Ben­jamin inter­viewed on Iran­ian state media

Other U.S. par­tic­i­pants also gave brief inter­views to Farsi-language media dur­ing panel breaks, includ­ing CODEPINK co-founder Medea Ben­jamin, who told IRIB Chan­nel 1 that some of the top­ics at the con­fer­ence addressed U.S. fund­ing for war at expense of pro­vid­ing ade­quate health­care for Amer­i­can cit­i­zens, and that, “These con­fer­ences should lift the pres­sure off of the Pales­tin­ian peo­ple.” Also present at the con­fer­ence was Rev­erend Stephen Sizer, a vicar in the Church of Eng­land who, accord­ing to the UK-based Com­mu­nity Secu­rity Trust (CST), has been accused of pro­mot­ing anti-Semitic links on his website.

Some of the notable panel dis­cus­sions held dur­ing the three-day con­fer­ence included “Zion­ist fin­ger­prints on the 9/11 cover-up;” “The Gaza war & BDS Move­ment against the Zion­ist regime,” which Medea Ben­jamin was part of; “US-Israeli dual cit­i­zens work­ing in the inter­est of Israel: the case for treach­ery;” and “The ‘Islamic’ State meme, its pre­cur­sors, & the US-Israel-Saudi triangle.”

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