Thanks to the organizing efforts of students and advocates in Philadelphia, the School Reform Commission governing the Philadelphia school district has adopted a revised code of conduct that begins to rollback harsh school discipline policies. The new code gives principals more discretion in dealing with disciplinary issues and limits the number of infractions for which students can be suspended.
Harsh discipline policies, under which students can be suspended for misbehaviors as minor as dress code violations, push students out of the classroom and deny them critical opportunities and learning time. The longer and more frequently students are locked out of the classroom, the more likely they are to wind up in the juvenile justice system. What's worse, federal data from the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights shows that students of color and students with disabilities are disproportionately suspended, which only contributes to the achievement gap.
The Campaign for Nonviolent Schools, a youth-led coalition committed to ending the school-to-prison pipeline, helped push the SRC to adopt the new code. Members of the coalition say they code is an important step but that there is still room for improvement, particularly when it comes to promoting restorative justice practices as an alternative to suspensions and expulsions.
Two members of CNS, Youth United for Change and the Philadelphia Student Union, are members of the Dignity in Schools Campaign. DSC recently joined with the OTL Campaign to launch "Solutions Not Suspensions: A call for a moratorium on out-of-school suspensions." In order to close the achievement gap and ensure all students have access to the resources they need to succeed, we must end out-of-school suspensions and implement policy solutions that keep students in the classroom.
You can read more about the new code of conduct in Philadelphia schools here.
And you can learn more about "Solutions Not Suspensions" at stopsuspensions.org. Add your voice to the call!