Students and Parents Push Back Against School “Pushout,” Barriers to Graduation


October 5, 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contacts:
Michael Soller, Public Counsel, (213) 385-2977 x121
Maisie Chin,  CADRE, (323) 823-7545
Manuel Criollo, Labor/Community Strategy Center, (213) 387-2800
Claudia Gomez , Youth Justice Coalition, (323) 327-1259
Michelle Newell, Children’s Defense Fund-CA, (213) 355-8790
David Sapp, ACLU of Southern CA, (213) 977-5220

Los Angeles Chapter

Los Angeles students and parents join other California cities and 13 states in National Week of Action, October 1-8, 2011
Students and Parents Push Back Against School “Pushout,” Barriers to Graduation

Art installation and statewide “cyber rally” focus on harmful school policies that target low-income students and families of color – part of the recognized crisis known as the “school-to-prison pipeline”
LOS ANGELES – Students, parents, organizers and advocates from across Los Angeles will converge TODAY, Wednesday, October 5th as part of a nationwide week of action to push back against decades of low graduation rates and the harsh school discipline practices that often fuel young people into low-income, low-wealth and under resourced communities of color.  They will create a visual and provide testimony that documents the problem of students being pushed out of school by harmful policies and law enforcement, through over and misguided use of zero tolerance policies and truancy tickets.  “Our goal is, through coming together and sharing stories of those directly impacted by push out throughout Los Angeles, that we can raise awareness on the school to prison pipeline and begin to move away from these often draconian discipline policies.” explains Michelle Newell, policy associate with the Children’s Defense Fund.

Community Rights Campaign youth organizer, Andrea Leyva from Manuel Arts High School, adds further urgency to today’s event in changing these counter-productive policies:  “Truancy tickets are a contradiction to itself when its purpose is to keep students in school yet it causes a domino effect of increasing absences and pushout rates.  Court discipline does not motivate students to get to school on time or attend at all.”

The Dignity in Schools Campaign is a nationwide effort to bring attention to the issue of school pushout.  “People used to say students ‘dropped out,’ but they weren’t looking at the reasons students failed to graduate,” said Edward Madison, South LA parent and member of the parent organizing group CADRE. “A lot of times police and courts, not parents and teachers, are delivering the lessons, and we need to change that.”

Local attention on this issue is far from new, but it is now reinforced through the announcement by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice this summer acknowledging “pushout” and the “school-to-prison pipeline”, and launching the federal Supportive School Discipline Initiative (http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2011/July/11-ag-951.html).  This announcement came on the heels of a statewide study of Texas suspension rates by the Justice Center of The Council of State Governments, revealing that nearly 6 in 10 public school students were suspended or expelled at least once between 7th-12th grade, and that such students were more likely to drop out and be involved with the juvenile justice system (http://justicecenter.csg.org/resources/juveniles).  Members of the Dignity in Schools Campaign are preparing to meet with the two departments to shape the initiative.

This issue is personal to Claudia Gomez, youth organizer with the Youth Justice Coalition:  “Now with everyday that goes by, our schools are looking more like prisons, to the point where it seems as though youth are going to school to get prepared for prison and not college. There are more school police and probation officers on campus now, than there are counselors. Not only here in the LAUSD, but across the whole country, school administrators are making cops and metal detectors as much part of the school day as teachers and textbooks. So called zero tolerance disciplinary policies are and have already transformed campuses into hostile territory, alienating communities and pushing vulnerable students to give up on our education.“

The art installation will happen today at The California Endowment, 1000 North Alameda, Los Angeles, California 90012.  Afterwards, Los Angeles students and families will join a “virtual rally” via video with others from Oakland, Fresno and Sacramento, and education experts and community organizers will hold a panel discussion about “Punishing Our Future: School Discipline in Los Angeles.”

WHAT: Pipeline to Dignity Installation and Statewide Virtual Rally
WHEN: Wednesday, Oct. 5 - Art display and rally: 4 PM; Panel discussion: 7 PM
WHERE: The California Endowment, 1000 North Alameda Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012
WHO: Students and parents who have experienced pushout, and advocates and education experts
VISUALS: A “pipeline” of visual representations of youth and parents’ experiences in and assessments of schools reflecting the impact of school pushout

Los Angeles grassroots organizing groups, attorneys, and advocates have taken the lead nationwide in reducing school push out and the role of law enforcement in students’ and their families’ lives.

• In April, the Los Angeles Police Department announced a plan to issue fewer tickets for daytime curfew violations when students are on their way to school. The Los Angeles School Police Department, the nation’s largest school district police force, announced it was considering a similar plan.
• The Los Angeles City Council will soon consider a proposal to reduce the impact of the daytime curfew law for families and students who cannot afford to pay $240 tickets or take time off work to spend time in court.
• In 2007, the Los Angeles Unified School District formally adopted School-Wide Positive Behavior Support, a research-based school discipline approach with proven results to reduce out-of-school suspensions and other disciplinary removals; it is gaining traction and success in some South LA schools and Local District 7 has agreed to prioritize its implementation.
• Since 2007, the Youth Justice Coalition has operated FreeLA High School, in partnership with John Muir Charter School and the Workforce Investment Act, to provide an alternative to youth ages 16-24 who have been pushed out of schools and have difficulty re-enrolling.  FreeLA High School is a pioneering model of re-engaging youth who have interacted with law enforcement, which includes youth organizing, social justice campaigns, and practicing restorative justice to rebuild community. 

About us:  The Dignity in Schools Campaign – Los Angeles Chapter (DSC-LA) is part of a national movement and includes children’s advocacy groups CADRE (www.cadre-la.org), Community Rights Campaign – Labor/Community Strategy Center (www.thestrategycenter.org/project/community-rights-campaign/about), the Youth Justice Coalition (www.youth4justice.org), Public Counsel (www.publiccounsel.org), the Children’s Defense Fund – California (www.cdfca.org), and the ACLU of Southern California (www.aclu-sc.org).  Learn more about Dignity in Schools at www.dignityinschools.org and read DSC-LA member organizations’ reports that provide background on their respective campaigns to end the school-to-prison pipeline:

• Redefining Dignity in Our Schools – A Shadow Report on School-Wide Positive Behavior Support Implementation in South Los Angeles, 2007-2010: www.publiccounsel.org/publications?id=0134 or www.cadre-la.org/core/our-library/
• Community Rights Campaign - End Truancy Tickets:  http://www.thestrategycenter.org/report/end-tickets-alternatives-youth
• The Youth Justice Coalition’s Welcome LA Home Youth Reentry Campaign Platform: http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/5438/images/WelcomeHomeLAJuly2011.pdf
• Juvenile Reentry in Los Angeles County: An Exploration of Strengths, Barriers and Policy Options:  http://www.childrensdefense.org/child-research-data-publications/data/la-county-juvenile-justice.pdf
• Students and Civil Rights Groups Announce Revised LAPD Protocol to Reduce Curfew Tickets That Have Targeted Students of Color:  http://www.aclu-sc.org/news_stories/view/102889

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