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Senate Hearing On Ending The School-to-Prison Pipeline Shows Need For Federal Action To Reform School Discipline And Address Racial Disparity

Positive Discipline Approaches Should Replace Suspension, Expulsion And Arrest

WASHINGTON, Dec. 12, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today, Edward Ward, a youth leader with Chicago-based community organization Blocks Together and a member of the Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC), will testify before the first-ever Senate hearing on "Ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline" about his personal experience with the culture of zero tolerance discipline that has lead to more than 3 million young people being suspended out of school each year, overwhelmingly for minor, non-violent offenses.

The DSC commends Senator Durbin and the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights for holding this hearing and ensuring that the voices of youth leaders like Edward are heard.

"After seeing so many classmates lose hope because they were punished with suspensions for tardiness, not wearing an ID card around their necks or using a swear word, it made me question the reasoning behind these policies that led to young people missing class time and being abandoned by our schools," said Edward. "I believed I needed to take part in improving my school and got involved to introduce Restorative Justice practices as an alternative to suspensions."

With school discipline rates at their all-time highs - double what they were in the 1970s - the DSC believes that there has never been a more important time for federal action on the school-to-prison pipeline. This spike in suspension, expulsion, and arrest occurs in the face of significant research on the educational and social harms of these practices. The American Psychological Association and the Council of State Governments, among others, have identified the links between exclusionary discipline and students being held back a grade, dropping out, and coming into contact with the juvenile and criminal justice systems.

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