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Grassroots initiative launches campaign spotlighting out-of-school suspensions for Latino, African-American and disabled youth

LatinaLista — The school year is just getting underway and two education groups are hoping that this school year will be different for those Latino, African American and disabled children for whom out-of-school suspension has become the norm rather than the exception.

The Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) and the Opportunity to Learn Campaign have joined forces launching a grassroots initiative calling for a national moratorium on out-of-school suspensions.

The nationwide moratorium, known as Solutions Not Suspensions, strives to put a halt to the disproportionate suspensions of disabled and Latino and African American youth in the country’s school system.

The issue is of critical importance because studies have found that 3.3 million suspended students are losing a lot more than learning time when they are sent off campus for suspensions. The suspensions are a blow to the students’ self-esteem and regard for education.

Recent federal data show that Black and Latino students and students with disabilities are disproportionately targeted by suspensions. They are also likely to be punished more severely than white students for minor misbehavior, contributing to the achievement gap and high dropout rates for these students.

The initiative is calling for states and school districts to support teachers in implementing positive methods for disciplining students that keep them on campus, don’t allow them to lose valuable time from the classroom, and maintains their human right to an education and upholding their dignity. At the same time, ensuring a safe environment conducive to learning for all students.

At first glance, it would seem an educator would have to be a miracle worker to achieve all the objectives of the Solutions Not Suspensions initiative, but that’s not the case.

…the Dignity in Schools Campaign is releasing a set of model school discipline policies that provide guidelines to help districts and schools implement the moratorium and phase in positive alternatives.

Also, the site itself will serve as a “clearinghouse for information on effective alternatives to suspension.”

Another part of the initiative is to get signatures to the moratorium pledge that asks states, school districts and law enforcement to do six specific actions:

  1. Put in place the moratorium for no less than one year and until more effective discipline strategies that eliminate disparities are implemented and documented;
  2. Prioritize keeping students in their regular classroom setting and school. In cases where students are temporarily removed to an equivalent educational setting, provide positive supports to ensure that there is an effective transition back to their regular classroom setting that meets academic, social and emotional needs;
  3. Adopt smart and supportive discipline practices, such as school-wide positive behavior supports, restorative practices and other positive approaches, that do not limit students’ learning time or discriminate based on gender, race or disability status;
  4. Safeguard against an increase in and work to reduce reliance on other punitive discipline practices such as expulsions, school-based arrests or placements in alternative schools;
  5. Provide supports to teachers, administrators and other educational staff to address discipline challenges in a way that protects students’ human rights to education and dignity, while also ensuring a safe and orderly teaching and learning environment; and
  6. Engage parents, students, teachers and community members in the development and implementation of more educationally sound and equitable policies and practices.

In this day and age, it’s important that all children receive an equitable education because as the tired cliche says: “They are our future,” and it does no good when the majority of this country’s future have substandard literacy rates and skill sets.

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  • LatinaLista
    September 6, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    @OTLCampaign @DignityinSchool It’s an important issue…

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