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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

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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May 15, 2014 Off

Brown v. Board of Education: 60 Years Later, the Legacy Unfulfilled


LOC2Sixty years after Brown v. Board of Edu­ca­tion the promise of equal edu­ca­tional oppor­tu­ni­ties in the United States remains unful­filled. On May 17, 1954 the U.S. Supreme Court issued a land­mark deci­sion in Brown deseg­re­gat­ing America’s schools.  Find­ing that “it is doubt­ful that any child may rea­son­ably be expected to suc­ceed in life if he is denied the oppor­tu­nity of an edu­ca­tion,” the Court con­cluded that edu­ca­tion “is a right which must be made avail­able to all on equal terms.”

Today African Amer­i­can and Latino stu­dents are more than twice as likely to drop out of school as their white peers. Although there are many fac­tors that con­tribute to this trou­bling inequity, school sus­pen­sions and expul­sions are among the best indi­ca­tors for which stu­dents will drop out of school. A stu­dent who has been sus­pended from school is more than three times more likely to drop out in the first two years of high school than a stu­dent who has never been sus­pended.  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 become involved with the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem.  This cycle of sus­pen­sions and expul­sions that leads to stu­dents drop­ping out of school, which in turn leads to increased like­li­hood of incar­cer­a­tion, has become known as the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

Harsh school dis­ci­pline poli­cies dis­pro­por­tion­ately impact stu­dents of color, stu­dents with dis­abil­i­ties, and stu­dents who iden­tify as les­bian, gay, bisex­ual or trans­gen­der (LGBT).  Data from the Depart­ment of Education’s Office for Civil Rights shows that black stu­dents are sus­pended and expelled at a rate three times greater than their white peers.  Sim­i­larly, stu­dents with dis­abil­i­ties are more than twice as likely to receive out-of-school sus­pen­sions as stu­dents with no dis­abil­i­ties and LGBT youth are much more likely than their het­ero­sex­ual peers to be sus­pended or expelled.  Con­trary to some hypothe­ses, stud­ies have found lit­tle dif­fer­ence in stu­dents’ behav­ior across racial lines to account for the dis­pro­por­tion­al­ity.  Rather, stud­ies have found that African Amer­i­can stu­dents tend to receive harsher pun­ish­ment for less seri­ous behav­ior, and are more often pun­ished for sub­jec­tive offenses, such as “loi­ter­ing” or “disrespect.”

The bad news doesn’t end with the data about dis­ci­pline. There are other dis­pro­por­tion­ate, neg­a­tive impacts related to seg­re­gated schools and they rep­re­sent what can be known as the edu­ca­tional oppor­tu­nity gap.  Stu­dents in major­ity black and Latino schools are taught by fewer cer­ti­fied teach­ers, and their teach­ers are paid less than teach­ers at pre­dom­i­nantly white schools. Schools that are pre­dom­i­nantly black and Latino offer fewer courses nec­es­sary to attend com­pet­i­tive col­leges and have fewer gifted and tal­ented programs.

The data boils down to a truth many have known for a long time.  Race is still a promi­nent pre­dic­tor of access to qual­ity and equity in schools. It remains as impor­tant as ever to dis­cuss issues of racial dis­par­ity crit­i­cally and thought­fully in local communities.

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May 14, 2014 Off

From The Archives: ADL’s Involvement In Brown v. Board

Sat­ur­day, May 17th marks the 60th anniver­sary of Brown v. Board of Edu­ca­tion, the land­mark Supreme Court deci­sion that ruled racially seg­re­gated pub­lic schools “inher­ently unequal” and ordered the deseg­re­ga­tion of America’s pub­lic schools. ADL-brown-amicus-brief

Act­ing on its man­date “to secure jus­tice and fair treat­ment to all cit­i­zens alike and to put an end for­ever to unjust and unfair dis­crim­i­na­tion,” in Octo­ber 1952 ADL’s National Com­mis­sion resolved to encour­age fed­eral and state leg­is­la­tors “to sup­port leg­is­la­tion to insure the great­est pos­si­ble pro­tec­tion of civil rights and equal­ity of oppor­tu­nity for all in the fun­da­men­tal fields of employ­ment, edu­ca­tion and housing.”

The next month, ADL filed an ami­cus brief in Brown, argu­ing that because African Amer­i­can chil­dren were “dis­ad­van­taged by the seg­re­gated pub­lic school sys­tem of Topeka” the Court should “dis­avow the ‘sep­a­rate but equal’ doc­trine as it has been applied to pub­lic edu­ca­tional institutions.”

ADL’s brief noted a lower court’s find­ing that seg­re­ga­tion “irrepara­bly dam­ages the child,” and argued that “that which is unequal in fact can­not be equal in law.” The brief’s final argu­ment read:

Legally imposed seg­re­ga­tion in our coun­try, in any shape, man­ner or form, weak­ens our pro­gram to build and strengthen world democ­racy and com­bat total­i­tar­i­an­ism. In edu­ca­tion, at the lower lev­els, it indeli­bly fixes anti-social atti­tudes and behav­ior pat­terns by build­ing inter-group antag­o­nisms. It forces a sense of lim­i­ta­tion upon the child and destroys incen­tive. It pro­duces feel­ings of infe­ri­or­ity and dis­cour­ages racial self-appreciation.

Today, ADL con­tin­ues to com­bat dis­crim­i­na­tion in schools and advo­cate for edu­ca­tion equity. On its 60th anniver­sary, we rec­og­nize the Brown deci­sion as a mon­u­men­tal leap for­ward in the ongo­ing fight for equal education.

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