Building relationships and community to prevent and address conflict

Ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline

Zero tolerance and other exclusionary school discipline policies are pushing kids out of the classroom and into the criminal justice system at unprecedented rates. Too many students are lost to our communities this way. Disciplined at disproportionate rates and with heightened severity for minor infractions that used to warrant a trip to the principal’s office, students of color are most impacted.

Mobilizing for Safe and Just Schools: Add your community to the Movement for Safe and Just Schools Map

Minneapolis, Denver, Charlottesville, Portland, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh… these are just a few of the scores of cities and communities across the country where educators, students and community organizations are organizing to create police-free schools. School districts are moving to make better, research-informed choices to drive resources back into schools where they will have the most impact for our students.

Click on the map below to find details on local resolutions, petitions and organizing.

 

 

Put your community on the Movement for Safe and Just Schools map!

LOCAL UNIONS SUPPORTING THE MOVEMENT FOR POLICE-FREE SCHOOLS & REINVESTMENT IN OUR STUDENTS

Addressing the over-reliance on police in public schools is crucial to dismantling the systemic racism that deprives Black and Brown youth of the opportunity to succeed at the very first stages of their lives.  It is the single greatest step we can take to end the school-to-prison pipeline, through which Black and Brown students are pushed out of our public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. By rebalancing and redirecting resources to school counselors, restorative justice programs and other proven methods to address student health and wellbeing, we can ensure our students have opportunities to learn and thrive.

What Our Students Need Now: Virtual School Culture That Is Healthy, Just and Strong

School is a place where childhood happens. And most of us believe that every child, whatever their color, background or zip code, has the right to learn in a supportive environment that respects their humanity, upholds their dignity, and responds fairly to mistakes and missteps. We are in unprecedented times, and now more than ever, the school community has the opportunity and the responsibility to focus on what matters most — safe, just and healthy students and school communities.

At a time when many students are learning in virtual settings, educators and administrators must address discriminatory policies and practices that often contribute to disproportionate discipline. For far too long data has shown that Black, Brown, Indigenous and LGBT students are more likely to be disciplined and disciplined more harshly than their white peers for the same behavior.

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The School-to-Prison Pipeline: Time to Shut it Down

The practice of pushing kids out of school and toward the juvenile and criminal justice systems has become known as the “school-to-prison pipeline.” In 2013, NEA members and leaders made a formal commitment to close it. Fueled by zero tolerance policies and the presence of police officers in schools, and made worse by school funding cuts that overburden counselors and high-stakes tests that stress teachers, these excessive practices have resulted in the suspensions, expulsions, and arrests of tens of millions of public school students, especially students of color and those with disabilities or who identify as LGBT.

For those students, it isn’t just an interruption in learning, although it’s definitely that, too—if they aren’t in school, they aren’t learning. A suspension can be life-altering. It is the number-one predictor— more than poverty—of whether children will drop out of school, and walk down a road that includes greater likelihood of unemployment, reliance on social-welfare programs, and imprisonment.

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According to the U.S. Department of Justice, which last year ordered school districts to respond to student misbehavior in “fair, non-discriminatory, and effective” ways, Black students are suspended and expelled at a rate three times greater than White students, while Black and Latino students account for 70 percent of police referrals.

Also, students with disabilities are twice as likely to be suspended than their non-disabled peers, and LGBT students are 1.4 times more likely to face suspension than their straight peers. In Ohio, a Black child with an emotional disability was 17 times more likely to be suspended than a White, non-disabled peer. Combine these “risk factors,” and you’re talking about a child who might as well stay home.

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Schools are unfairly pushing girls out

Too many schools suspend girls for minor issues —such as going against strict dress codes or “talking back.” In general, schools suspend Black, Latina and American Indian/Alaskan Native girls at higher rates than white girls.

These practices tell these girls that school is not a welcome place. These practices may also be informed by illegal gender and racial bias. This tool kit will help you find out if your school’s discipline policy treats girls of color fairly. Use this guide to learn your rights, how you can change your school policy, and where to find help.

  • Black girls are 5.5 times more likely to be suspended from school as white girls.
  • Black girls are more likely than any other race or gender to be suspended more than once.
  • Schools are 3.5 times more likely to suspend Black girls with disabilities than white girls with disabilities.
  • In preschools, Black girls are 20% of the girls enrolled but 54% of the girls receiving out-of-school suspensions; in K-12, Black girls are 16% of the girls enrolled but 45% of the girls receiving out-of-school suspensions.
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  • Schools suspend American Indian/Alaskan Native girls at more than three times the rate of white girls and at a higher rate than white boys.
  • Latina girls are 1.6 times more likely to be suspended than white girls are.

These uneven rates of discipline are not because of more frequent or serious misbehavior. Instead, race and gender bias informs unfair discipline. For instance, schools often punish Black girls who act out because of stereotypes that Black girls are “angry.” Or target Latina girls for not following dress codes because of sexualized images of Latinas in the media.

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Taking Restorative Practices School-Wide: Insights from Three Schools in Denver

The Denver School-Based Restorative Practices Partnership is a coalition of racial justice, education, labor and community groups working to ensure widespread and high-quality implementation of restorative practices in Denver Public Schools and beyond.

Through interviews and focus groups with staff members at three Denver schools that have successfully implemented restorative practices (RP), four essential strategies for taking this approach school-wide were identified:

  • Strong principal vision and commitment to restorative practices.
  • Explicit efforts to generate staff buy-in to this conflict resolution approach.
  • Continuous and intensive professional development opportunities.
  • The allocation of school funds for a full-time coordinator of restorative practices at the site.
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Restorative practices are alternatives to punitive school disciplinary policies that have proven ineffective and racially discriminatory. Using approaches such as dialogues, peace circles, conferencing, and peer-led mediation, restorative practices get to the root cause of student behavior.

Educators also say restorative practices identify issues too minor to be addressed with harsh school disciplinary responses—suspensions, police tickets, removal from class and isolation from other students—and create plans for students to both learn from and make amends for mistakes. When fully implemented, restorative practices improve school climate, increase academic achievement and reduce racial disparities in school discipline.

View the full report from the Denver School-Based Restorative Practices Partnership:  Taking Restorative Practices School-wide: Insights from Three Schools in Denver (PDF)

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Take Action

Building Power in Our Communities

Ready to get active and be the superhero our students deserve in the fight for racial, social and economic justice in public education? Then join the NEA EdJustice League!

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Resources

 

Restorative Practices

A guide for educators seeking to foster healthy relationships and promote positive discipline in schools.

View the Guide

Model School Code

A model school code on education and dignity, developed by Dignity in Schools, that presents a human rights framework for schools.

View the Code

Stop School Pushout

"Let Her Learn: Stopping School Pushout for Girls of Color" is a 28-page guide and toolkit produced by the National Women's Law Center.

View the Toolkit