Los Angeles Students, Parents, and Teachers Call for National Moratorium on Out-of-School Suspensions

Today in Los Angeles, students, parents, and teachers from across the country launched a national “Solutions Not Suspensions” campaign calling for a moratorium on out-of-school suspensions and for schools to adopt more constructive disciplinary actions that benefit students, classrooms and communities.

The effort is sponsored by the Dignity in Schools Campaign and Opportunity to Learn Campaign, a community-led effort of more than 50 groups across the country.

As part of the initiative, the partners have established a website – www.stopsuspensions.org – that will serve as a clearinghouse for information on effective alternatives to suspension, and give supporters an opportunity to add their voice to the call for a moratorium. The Dignity in Schools Campaign has also released a set of model school discipline policies that provide guidelines to help districts and schools implement the moratorium and phase in positive alternatives.

The press conference happened at Free L.A. High School, a campus that helps students pushed out of their home schools to get back on track.

“I know that I’m going to graduate and go to college. I’m going to succeed. But very few students who get pushed out of school have these options. We have to push schools to educate all students,” said Leslie Mendoza, a student at the Youth Justice Coalition’s FREE L.A. High School in Los Angeles. She was pushed out of LAUSD’s Hamilton High School after she fell behind in credits.

“Even with the adoption of School Wide Positive Behavior Supports five years ago, data shows a high percentage of African American students continue to be suspended,” said Eddie Madison, a parent leader with CADRE. “We need to take serious measures to find true solutions, not more suspensions.”

“Many of us became teachers because we care about the kids in our communities. It’s important to find the resources for our schools that support alternatives for our students,” said Ingrid Villeda, a teacher at Stanford Avenue Elementary.

“Unfair school discipline practices that lead to excessive suspensions and expulsions of certain students affect all students, not just those who are suspended,” said Jade Woods, a senior at Price High School and recipient of the Children’s Defense Fund’s Beat the Odds scholarship.

“Being excluded from school only made things worse for my son, and I’m calling on LAUSD and districts across the country to stop out of school suspensions and work with families to find better solutions,” said Anita Contreras, who sought Public Counsel’s help after her son Elijah was repeatedly suspended when he was only 7 years old.

“We have a vision for changing our schools and the Dignity in Schools model discipline code defends our educational rights and shows how we can support students,” said Delona Washington, a recent graduate of Manual Arts High School and a member of the Community Rights Campaign.

The Dignity in Schools Campaign model discipline code includes best practices for school administrators who want to keep students in school and end out-of-school suspensions. The Model Code for Education and Dignity: Presenting a Human Rights Framework for Schools was created with the help of students, educators, and families who are most affected by harsh discipline practices.

The model discipline code is a guide for school communities that want to make schools safer and more supportive. Examples include:

•    Eliminating suspensions for “defiance,” a catch-all category in California Education Code that often leads to students suspended or expelled for minor misbehavior that can be better addressed in school.
•    Reducing law enforcement presence on campus unless there is a real and immediate threat to the physical safety of a member of the school community and eliminating police involvement in routine school discipline.
•    Preventing substance abuse by young persons through harm reduction strategies such as drug education, resources and intervention instead of suspension.

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