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October 28, 2015 2

Now More Than Ever: Why We Need to Address Inequity and Justice in Schools

Diverse-students-holding-sign-lets-talk-equityWe live in an increas­ingly plu­ral­is­tic, mul­ti­cul­tural and con­nected world. In order to pre­pare stu­dents to live, learn and even­tu­ally work suc­cess­fully in soci­ety, we need to pre­pare them.  Diver­sity in the United States is rapidly increas­ing, espe­cially among young peo­ple enter­ing our school sys­tem. 2014 was the first school year when more chil­dren of color were enrolled in U.S. pub­lic schools than white chil­dren. How­ever, the diver­sity of our teach­ing force is stub­bornly stag­nant at 80% white and, fur­ther, between 2002 and 2012 there was a decline in the num­ber of African Amer­i­can teach­ers in nine major cities, includ­ing the three largest school dis­tricts. Of all the teach­ers in the U.S., only 2% are black and male.

Over the past year, pub­lic con­scious­ness around insti­tu­tional and implicit forms of bias has been ele­vated and there is a lot of con­ver­sa­tion about the ways our soci­ety needs to progress fur­ther towards a “more per­fect union.” The pub­lic aware­ness about the racial dis­par­i­ties in the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem includ­ing the recent deaths of men of color at the hands of the police, have pro­vided con­vinc­ing evi­dence that injus­tice per­sists. For all of the great gains we have made leg­isla­tively over the past sixty years, includ­ing this past year, there is still much work to be done: the gen­der wage gap, trans­pho­bia, vot­ing sup­pres­sion and restric­tions  that tar­get peo­ple of color, stu­dents and the elderly, anti-Semitism around the world. inces­sant anti-immigrant hate­ful rhetoric com­ing from reg­u­lar cit­i­zens and law­mak­ers and depend­ing on what state you live in, hate crimes laws that are either incom­plete or non-existent.

The struc­tural inequities in soci­ety also exist in our edu­ca­tional sys­tem. School re-segregation has resur­faced in a major way. In 1972, after years of fed­eral enforce­ment fol­low­ing Brown v. Board of Edu­ca­tion, 25% of black stu­dents in the South attended highly seg­re­gated schools; between 1990 and 2011, 53% of black stu­dents across the coun­try now attend such schools. In addi­tion, the per­sis­tent racial and socioe­co­nomic achieve­ment and oppor­tu­nity gaps and the racial dis­pro­por­tion­al­ity in school dis­ci­pline prac­tices (e.g. Black stu­dents are sus­pended three times the rate of white chil­dren) that leads to the “School to Prison Pipeline” threat­ens the abil­ity of all stu­dents to get a fair and just education.

When diver­sity is not under­stood, val­ued or respected, this can lead to inter­group ten­sion both in schools and society—manifesting as identity-based bul­ly­ing and bias, scape­goat­ing, stereo­typ­ing, dis­crim­i­na­tion, microag­gres­sions, implicit bias, the school to prison pipeline and expres­sions of hate that can lead to vio­lence and death.

Young peo­ple under­stand what is hap­pen­ing and want to be part of the pub­lic con­ver­sa­tion we are hav­ing about jus­tice, equity and racism in soci­ety. And sev­eral national orga­ni­za­tions agree. Since June 2015, four of the most promi­nent edu­ca­tional institutions–the National Edu­ca­tion Asso­ci­a­tion (NEA), Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of Teach­ers (AFT) , Amer­i­can Edu­ca­tional Research Asso­ci­a­tion (AERA) and National Coun­cil of Teach­ers of Eng­lish (NCTE)–have all made state­ments and res­o­lu­tions or issued reports that affirm the need for address­ing equity in schools and soci­ety, specif­i­cally rec­om­mend­ing that we high­light the “sys­temic pat­terns of inequity—racism and edu­ca­tional injustice—that impacts our stu­dents and tak­ing action to enhance access and oppor­tu­nity for our stu­dents.” and “pro­vide pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment and cul­tural com­pe­tency train­ing that helps teach­ers and other school staff under­stand their own per­sonal biases.”

The goal of anti-bias edu­ca­tion is to do just. By focus­ing on the devel­op­ment of an inclu­sive cul­ture and respect­ful school cli­mate, address­ing issues of bias and bul­ly­ing in schools and class­rooms, ini­ti­at­ing these rel­e­vant and timely con­ver­sa­tions with young peo­ple about the inequities in soci­ety and devel­op­ing a more cul­tur­ally respon­sive cur­ricu­lum, we teach young peo­ple that they can make a dif­fer­ence in their schools, soci­ety and world.

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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 14, 2014 0

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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