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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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September 16, 2014 0

From The Archives: Violence Against Women Act 20 Years Later

Twenty years ago, on Sep­tem­ber 13, 1994, Pres­i­dent Clin­ton signed the Vio­lence Against Women Act (VAWA), a law which reflects a core part of ADL’s mis­sion: the pre­ven­tion of bias-motivated crim­i­nal behav­ior. VAWA autho­rized gov­ern­ment action to improve crim­i­nal jus­tice and com­mu­nity responses to domes­tic and sex­ual vio­lence and pro­vided fund­ing for the estab­lish­ment of the National Domes­tic Vio­lence Hot­line. ADL’s sup­port for the law, which aimed to pro­tect women from vio­lence directed against them because of their gen­der, was a nat­ural exten­sion of its work on hate crimes. pres-clinton-bill-signing-1994-09-13

In 1996, two years after VAWA’s enact­ment, ADL added gen­der to its model hate crimes leg­is­la­tion, cit­ing the fact that gender-based hate crimes could not be eas­ily dis­tin­guished from other forms of hate-motivated vio­lence. In response to legal chal­lenges to VAWA fol­low­ing its enact­ment, ADL joined sev­eral ami­cus (friend of the court) briefs in sup­port of the Act. In 2000, in U.S. v. Mor­ri­son, ADL, along with a num­ber of other civil rights orga­ni­za­tions includ­ing Peo­ple for the Amer­i­can Way, the Amer­i­can Jew­ish Con­gress, and Hadas­sah, filed an ami­cus brief sup­port­ing the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of VAWA’s civil rem­edy pro­vi­sion, which allowed sur­vivors of gender-motivated vio­lence to sue their attack­ers in fed­eral court.

Fol­low­ing the Court’s deci­sion to strike down the civil rem­edy pro­vi­sion, ADL con­tin­ued its sup­port for leg­is­la­tion that coun­ters dis­crim­i­na­tion and bias crimes—including on the basis of gen­der or gen­der iden­tity. In 2009, Con­gress enacted the Matthew Shep­ard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Pre­ven­tion Act crim­i­nal­iz­ing hate crimes tar­get­ing vic­tims because of race, color, reli­gion, national ori­gin, gen­der, sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, gen­der iden­tity or dis­abil­ity.  ADL spear­headed coali­tion efforts to pass the bill for more than a decade.

After fail­ing to reau­tho­rize an update to VAWA in 2012, Con­gress enacted new leg­is­la­tion in 2013, which included addi­tional pro­grams specif­i­cally designed to address domes­tic vio­lence against women of color, Native Amer­i­cans, new cam­pus hate crime require­ments, and inti­mate part­ner vio­lence involv­ing mem­bers of the LGBT community.

On this impor­tant anniver­sary, ADL reaf­firms its long-standing com­mit­ment to advo­cat­ing for legally-sound statutes at the fed­eral and state level that counter dis­crim­i­na­tion, bias crimes, and vio­lence against women.

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August 28, 2014 0

Moving Forward From Ferguson

“His­tory sim­mers beneath the sur­face in more com­mu­ni­ties than just Fer­gu­son,” Attor­ney Gen­eral Eric Holder aptly rec­og­nized dur­ing his visit there. The con­ver­sa­tion about Fer­gu­son can­not start with the death of Michael Brown, a young unarmed black man shot to death by a white police offi­cer.  Though tragic in and of itself, the story goes back much further.ferguson-civil-rights

It is a sad tru­ism that America’s laws—and the peo­ple charged with enforc­ing them—have not always pro­tected com­mu­ni­ties of color.  In the infa­mous Dred Scott case, which orig­i­nated just miles from Fer­gu­son, the Supreme Court shame­fully ruled in 1857 that African Amer­i­cans had “no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”  Though the case served as a cat­a­lyst for the Civil War and the 13th, 14th and 15th Amend­ments rat­i­fied shortly there­after to super­sede the rul­ing, deep-seated racism continued.

Jim Crow laws seg­re­gated soci­ety and rel­e­gated African Amer­i­cans to second-class cit­i­zens. Lynch­ings ter­ror­ized com­mu­ni­ties.  All too often not only did law enforce­ment fail to pro­tect African Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties, but police offi­cers par­tic­i­pated in the lynch mobs.  Dur­ing the Civil Rights Move­ment, now-infamous images cap­tured police offi­cers using dogs, fire hoses and billy clubs against peace­ful protestors.

Since the Civil Rights Move­ment half a cen­tury ago we have worked hard as a nation to move towards a more just and equal soci­ety. We have come a long way, but Fer­gu­son stands as a stark reminder that we still have a long way to go.

In address­ing the cri­sis in Fer­gu­son, the first step must be open and respect­ful dia­logue.  We can­not move for­ward unless and until we face the past.  Part of that dis­cus­sion must be about the role of law enforce­ment and their rela­tion­ship with the com­mu­ni­ties they have sworn to serve and protect.

Since 1999 the Anti-Defamation League, in part­ner­ship with the United States Holo­caust Museum, has con­ducted train­ings for law enforce­ment—from police chiefs and the head of fed­eral agen­cies to recruits and new FBI agents—exploring what hap­pens when police lose sight of the val­ues they swore to uphold and their role as pro­tec­tors of the  peo­ple they serve. By con­trast­ing the con­duct of police in Nazi Ger­many, and the role that law enforce­ment is expected to play in our democ­racy, the pro­gram under­scores the impor­tance of safe­guard­ing con­sti­tu­tional rights, build­ing trust with the peo­ple and com­mu­ni­ties they serve, and the tragic con­se­quences when there is a gap between how law enforce­ment behaves and the core val­ues of the profession.

We know from our work that the vast major­ity of offi­cers care deeply about the com­mu­ni­ties they serve.  But that is not to say police are infal­li­ble.  None of us is.  And there are cer­tainly some within law enforce­ment who engage in mis­con­duct, as is the case in every pro­fes­sion.  But the bad acts of some can­not and do not define law enforcement.

Amer­ica is strongest and safest when there is mutual under­stand­ing and trust between law enforce­ment and com­mu­ni­ties.  We must seek to build those bridges by rec­og­niz­ing our trou­ble­some past, acknowl­edg­ing the prob­lems per­sist­ing today, and com­mit­ting to changes that move us for­ward to a more per­fect union.

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