Last week was Dignity in School’s national week of action to end school pushout. All week parents, students, educators, and activists held events across the country to engage their communities and spread information about ways we can rethink discipline in public schools. The national week of action had four major demands: to shift funding to restorative discipline practices, to use positive behavioral interventions instead of suspensions and expulsions, to fully implement restorative justice practices, and to engage parents and students about discipline policies. You can watch the below video for an introduction to the reasons why Dignity in Schools and the other participating organizations are fighting so hard to prevent school pushout and disrupt the school to prison pipeline:
There were many events that sparked in-depth conversations, such as community town halls. Dignity in Schools also partnered with White House Initiative on Educational Experience for African Americans to host a twitter chat. They asked questions on all aspects of school discipline, such as what youth, parents, and the federal government could do to help change discipline practices, and got many thoughtful responses. You can see some of the tweets below:
Q5: How can we shift funds from incarcerating youth to educating youth? #DSCWoA2015— Dignity in Schools (@DignityinSchool) October 7, 2015
A5: Policy-makers need to shift funds from school policing to counselors & positive discipline; support peacebuilders in schools #DSCWoA2015— NESRI (@NESRIorg) October 7, 2015
In New York, a coalition came together to promote a new package of legislation that would overhaul state suspension policies. For example, under the new legislation, schools would not be able to suspend very young children or suspend any students for more than twenty days for non-violent infractions. It was proposed by the Assembly’s education chair, Catherine Nolan, and promoted at a rally with former Chief Justice Judith Kaye and leaders from the New York branch of the Dignity in Schools Campaign.
Students also got in on the action, with groups like Schott grantee Boston Student Advisory Council reaching out to their peers to start the conversation on school discipline and collect personal stories about how it has affected students in Boston public schools. Youth leaders gathered at area subway stations to collect hundreds of stories, which they plan to share with the school board. In Denver, the organization Padres y Jóvenes Unidos ran a Facebook and Twitter campaign, asking students to take pictures of themselves with signs displaying their future dreams. They wanted to show that these students are not “pre-prison,” and to demand they be treated like the students they actually are.
Parents were involved too, such as another Schott grantee, Los Angeles Community Asset Development Re-Defining Education (CADRE). They led parents into the schools themselves and ended up observing almost fifty classrooms! These observations were to promote the implementation of positive behavioral supports throughout southern LA. The Portland Parent Union also organized events in their community to speak out against school pushout, including a rally and classroom visits.
There were many more events last week as well, so be sure to check out Dignity in School’s page here for a complete list. These events were great ways to bring together students, parents, teachers, and activists to share experiences about harsh school discipline policies and ways we can all fight against them. Congratulations to Dignity in Schools and allies for such a powerful week of action!