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October 3, 2014

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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July 2, 2014

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 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

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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