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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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July 2, 2014 0

From the Archives: ADL & the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – Part 1

News­pa­pers head­lined accu­sa­tions of police bru­tal­ity. Steel hel­mets became stan­dard daily equip­ment for police­men in a grow­ing net­work of cities besieged by riots … This was the long, hot sum­mer civil rights experts had warned against – a long, hot sum­mer that threat­ened to become the Amer­i­can year-round cli­mate. – ADL Bul­letin, Octo­ber 1964

President_Kennedy_addresses_nation_on_Civil_Rights,_11_June_1963

Pres­i­dent Kennedy addresses the nation on civil rights, June 11, 1963

It was in the midst of this “long, hot sum­mer” that Con­gress passed and Pres­i­dent John­son signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a sweep­ing bill that pro­hib­ited seg­re­ga­tion in pub­lic places and required deseg­re­ga­tion of pub­lic schools. A tumul­tuous period of debate and fil­i­buster in Con­gress was the last hur­dle in the long and ardu­ous process that pre­ceded its passage.

Com­mit­ted to fight­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion since its found­ing, ADL had sup­ported Con­gress’ pas­sage of the first fed­eral civil rights leg­is­la­tion in over eighty years, the Civil Rights Act of 1957. As plans for a new bill began to take shape, ADL joined a coali­tion of civil rights and reli­gious orga­ni­za­tions that fer­vently lob­bied leg­is­la­tors to pass it.

On June 11, 1963, just two months after not­ing ADL’s “tire­less pur­suit of equal­ity of treat­ment for all Amer­i­cans” dur­ing his address at ADL’s 50th annual meet­ing, Pres­i­dent Kennedy addressed the day’s events, which included a dra­matic stand­off with Alabama Gov­er­nor George Wal­lace, and intro­duced the Civil Rights Act in a tele­vised speech. In a last ditch effort to pre­vent the deseg­re­ga­tion of the Uni­ver­sity of Alabama, Gov­er­nor Wal­lace placed him­self in the door of Fos­ter Audi­to­rium to block the enroll­ment of two African Amer­i­can stu­dents, Vivian Mal­one and James Hood. Gov­er­nor Wal­lace relented after a pres­i­den­tial procla­ma­tion com­manded him and any­one else “engaged in unlaw­ful obstruc­tions of jus­tice” to step aside, and Mal­one and Hood suc­cess­fully enrolled in the sum­mer session.

Over the course of that year Amer­i­cans wit­nessed increas­ing momen­tum in the civil rights move­ment and blood shed, includ­ing the assas­si­na­tion of Pres­i­dent Kennedy in November.

To be continued…

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June 7, 2014 0

Why Pride?

“Stonewall was just the flip side of the black revolt when Rosa Parks took a stand.  Finally, the kids down there took a stand. But it was peace­ful.  I mean, they said it was a riot; it was more like a civil disobedience.”

– Storme DeLarverie (1920–2014), early leader in the Gay Rights Movement

June is LGBT Pride Month.  To under­stand the LGBT move­ment, it’s impor­tant to appre­ci­ate the mean­ing of pride.  Pride, accord­ing to Merriam-Webster, is “a feel­ing that you respect your­self and deserve to be respected by other peo­ple.”  How does this trans­late into LGBT pride or pride amongst any other group of peo­ple such as African Amer­i­cans, Jews, women or immi­grants? Espe­cially for groups of peo­ple who have been oppressed, mar­gin­al­ized, dis­crim­i­nated against and tar­geted for bul­ly­ing, harass­ment and vio­lence, pride is key.  Pride is a group of peo­ple stand­ing together and affirm­ing their self-worth, their his­tory and accom­plish­ments, their capa­bil­ity, dig­nity and their vis­i­bil­ity.  It is a vocal and pow­er­ful state­ment to them­selves and the world that they deserve to be treated with respect and equal­ity. Pride is a way out.

The LGBT Pride Move­ment began at Stonewall in the sum­mer of 1969.  On June 28, a police raid of the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in NYC, turned vio­lent when cus­tomers and local sym­pa­thiz­ers rioted against the police.  The riot embod­ied the mount­ing of anger and weari­ness the gay com­mu­nity felt about the police depart­ment tar­get­ing gay clubs and engag­ing in dis­crim­i­na­tory prac­tices, which occurred reg­u­larly dur­ing that time. And yes, it also rep­re­sented their pride. The Stonewall riot was fol­lowed by days of demon­stra­tions in NYC and was the impe­tus for the cre­ation of sev­eral gay, les­bian and bisex­ual civil rights orga­ni­za­tions.  One year later, the first Gay Pride marches took place in New York, Los Ange­les and Chicago, com­mem­o­rat­ing the Stonewall riots. The Pride move­ment was born.

Forty-five years later, there have been major strides in the rights and treat­ment of LGBT peo­ple: in nine­teen states plus D.C. same-sex cou­ples have the free­dom to marry ; we have openly gay pro­fes­sional sports’ play­ers — Michael Sam (NFL) and Jason Collins (NBA); and this month Lav­erne Cox became the first trans­gen­der woman to grace the cover of Time mag­a­zine.  At the same time, there remains much work to be done.  Just as LGBT Pride rep­re­sents a wide diver­sity of peo­ple and issues, there are a wide vari­ety of oppor­tu­ni­ties for edu­ca­tors to cel­e­brate, teach and demon­strate their pride for LGBT people:

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