"This hearing is important to me because it will finally shed light on the opportunity gap that exists for far too many children in public education," said Marlyn Tillman, parent and co-chair of the Gwinnett Parent Coalition to Dismantle the School to Prison Pipeline, who will be attending the hearing in Washington, D.C. "Students with disabilities and students of color are disproportionately impacted by this national trend. It is my hope that this hearing serves as a catalyst for ending the injustices that our children face in the systems that are charged with educating them."
"This hearing is a testament to all of the hard work of parents, students, grassroots organizations, and advocates across the country that have been fighting for decades on a local, state and national level to end this school pushout crisis in our nation's schools," said Damekia Morgan, of Families and Friends of Louisiana's Incarcerated Children (FFLIC), who will also be at the hearing. "I am hopeful that what will derive from this hearing are strategies that will put the federal government at the forefront of holding our states accountable for the millions of students who are suspended and expelled each year from school."
Over 100 youth, parents and community leaders with the Dignity in Schools Campaign from states across the country will be at the hearing to call on the federal government to provide resources and guidance to support states and school districts in ending these harmful practices and implementing positive solutions.
In the last two years alone, thanks to the work of Dignity in Schools Campaign members and allies, states like California, Colorado, Louisiana, Massachusetts and Michigan have passed bipartisan laws and policies that call attention to exclusionary discipline, limit its use, and/or provide support for educators in implementing practices that keep schools safe and engaging without relying on suspensions, expulsions, and arrests. Cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Denver, Baltimore, and New York have made significant positive revisions to their disciplinary policies and practices."The federal government can help to ensure that we are keeping students in school by implementing positive approaches to discipline, including peer mediation, conflict resolution, and other restorative justice practices," said Cheyanne Smith, youth leader at Make the Road New York and a 16 year-old junior at the Bushwick School for Social Justice in Brooklyn. "Such approaches should be implemented in all schools. They DO work!" The Dignity in Schools Campaign has joined the Opportunity to Learn Campaign and other allies in launching Solutions, Not Suspensions, a national call for a moratorium on out-of-school suspensions and for more constructive disciplinary policies. The Campaign has also released the Model Code on Education and Dignity, a set of evidence-based interventions and methods to reduce reliance on exclusionary discipline and improve academic performance and school climate through the use of practices like Restorative Justice and Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS).