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  • New Research Finds Excessive Discipline Harms Student Achievement

    In a report by the Discipline Disparities Research-to-Practice Collaborative, discrepancies in school discipline are found to be a serious problem that result in a wide range of negative student outcomes, including lowered academic achievement, increased risk of dropout, and increased likelihood of contact with the juvenile justice system.

    Funded by the Atlantic Philanthropies and Open Societies Foundations, the Collaborative consists of 26 researches, educators, advocates, and policy analysts that spent nearly three years working to develop and support a policy agenda for reform to improve students outcomes in school discipline and encourage effective interventions.

    Some of the key points discussed in the briefing papers include:

    • Removal from school for minor rule breaking happens too often and increases dropout risks, juvenile justice involvement, and can severely impair the economy.
    • Excessive disciplinary exclusion harms some groups more than others, including black males and Latinos.
    • There are effective and promising alternatives to exclusionary discipline and interventions, which can improve learning conditions for all students.

    Find the full briefing papers from the Discipline Disparities Series here >>

  • National Institute of Justice Announces Funding Opportunity To Increase School Safety

    The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) has announced the fiscal year 2014 funding opportunity, Investigator-Initiated Research: The Comprehensive School Safety Initiative. The goals of this initiative are to improve the knowledge and understanding of school safety and violence, and enhance school safety programs through social and behavioral science research.

    Under the Comprehensive School Safety Initiative, NIJ will allocate approximately $15 million for multiple grants to fund research that will address school safety issues directly and strive to achieve the following:

    • Examine the root causes of school violence
    • Develop new technologies
    • Apply evidence-based practices
    • Test pilot programs to enhance school safety

    As a starting point, Congress has identified a number of factors and issues related to school safety programs that investigators might consider for research and evaluation:

    • The school-to-prison pipeline
    • Gaps in the nation’s mental health system
    • Exposure to violence in the media
    • Bullying prevention programs or other violence prevention programs/initiatives
    • Crisis/emergency management
    • Efforts to address disparate treatment of students (based on race, disability, sex, etc.)
    • School discipline alternatives and restorative justice

  • NC Teens, Police, Community Join Forces to Stop Bullying Epidemic

    Our small community has been deeply affected by bullying. Last year, two teenage girls committed suicide after being bullied. This school year, we’ve already had five students bring weapons to school to protect themselves from bullies. And two out of three students referred to our Teen Court program for simple assault, simple affray or disorderly conduct are there because of bullying-related incidents.

    Recognizing the need to address bullying in schools, our young people, police officers and community members decided to take a stand by creating a short movie. The movie was written and acted by students, many of whom have been involved in bullying.

  • [VIDEO] Zero-Tolerance in Schools can Harm Young Boys

    Since the 1990s, young boys have increasingly become the victims of zero-tolerance policies in schools, resulting in 70% of expulsions across the U.S. The reason? According to Christina Hoff Sommers, American Enterprise Institute (AEI) resident scholar, boys, who for the most part love to engage in action narratives involving heroes, bad guys, rescues and shoot-ups, are being punished for acting like typical little boys.

    The concern school officials have with such play is not a new concept, fearing that if the behavior is not dealt with in a harsh manner and at a young age it may result in future psychological disorders and malicious actions. Schools have even gone so far as to eliminate games like dodgeball, red rover, tag and have even renamed “tug of war” to “tug of peace.”

    Experts argue that play is a critical basis for learning and boys’ heroic play is no exception. Researchers Mary Ellin Logue and Hattie Harvey even found that “bad guy” play:

    • Improved children’s conversation and imaginative writing
    • Builds moral imagination
    • Increases social competence
    • Imparts critical lessons about personal limits and self-restraint

    Logue and Harvey also fear that growing intolerance for boys’ action-narrative-play may be detrimental to early language development and weaken their attachment to school.

    The following video published by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), explores the growing gender gap in education and its implications for future generations:

  • The Many Faces of Teacher Activism

    When I was recently asked if I thought teachers today needed to be activists I didn't hesitate in my answer. "Being a teacher, almost by definition, means being an activist."

    That might come as a surprise to those teachers who have never wrote a letter to the editor, marched in a rally, retweeted a Diane Ravitch tweet, or "Occupied" anything but their classrooms. But I'm holding to my belief, as firmly as some teachers hold their protests signs declaring things like, "Let Teachers Teach" and "Protect Our Students": being an activist is an essential part of being a teacher.

    For most teachers activism is an everyday thing because students and their needs are every day. There's a lot to watch out for in a classroom -- even on good days they are a moil of energy -- aside from whether a lesson is hitting home. A student who can't read the board because her family can't afford glasses. A cough that doesn't go away. A young boy who refuses to go to rec. because he gets picked on. A nasty bruise on the arm of the girl who doesn't meet your eye. The immigrant student struggling with a new culture and a new language. The issues are real -- poverty, neglect, abuse, poor health and nutrition, bullying, depression, low self-esteem -- and they are all a part of an average school day.

    Good teachers don't complain, they just act, doing what needs doing to help their students learn. It may be a home visit, a talk with a school counselor, an offer to tutor after school, a walk around the playground at lunchtime, or a spare change collection in the teachers' room for eyeglasses. Some teachers (and it's a growing number) feel the need to address these concerns in a broader context, "taking to the streets" to confront such issues as health care, drugs, physical and sexual abuse, bullying, immigration, the current educational policy itself. But whatever teachers do, they take action, becoming activists for their students.

  • Why Missing School Matters

    Missing school matters, for obvious reasons. The first and most compelling, is that if kids don’t learn to show up, it will impact their ability to successfully shape the course of their lives, and showing up for life is a learned skill. Central Texas students (and this number shocked me!) miss 2.4 MILLION days of school each academic year, costing a loss of more than $34 million dollars annually for our schools. Children suffer academically when they aren’t in class. Chronic absence is an indicator for future drop out rates. Individual classrooms are affected by absence as students miss participation in key elements of their learning. So why do kids miss so much school?

    According to Communications Director, Rick L’Amie of the E3 Alliance, when kids were asked why they missed so much school, 49% of them said, it’s boring. At MAP, we think there’s more to it than that. We work with at-risk and disenfranchised youth on a daily basis, and in our work we explore a lot of serious life circumstances and issues with these kids. What I find is that our kids (and I suspect many are like them) often find it difficult to articulate the challenges they face in their daily lives. A 10 year old who misses school because her older brother got in a fight with a neighbor’s kid across the street and the fight led to retaliation which resulted in her house getting burned down and the family having to flee the neighborhood in fear, is not going to verbalize the complexity of that situation. It’s easy to say, I’m bored. But what that kid is also saying is, nothing I’m learning here feels relevant to my life experience.

  • REPORT: School Exclusionary Discipline Policies Expensive, Ineffective

    A new report, Breaking Rules, Breaking Budgets: Cost of Exclusionary Discipline in 11 Texas School Districts, by nonprofit Texas Appleseed shares the negative impacts of the exclusionary disciplinary methods in Texas schools. The study surveyed 11 school districts to discover the cost-benefit ratio of exclusionary discipline and how it affects students and communities. Exclusionary discipline includes out-of-school suspensions, expulsions, and referrals to alternative education programs which leads to high human and financial costs.

    In 2011, the Council of State Governments released a groundbreaking report documenting the negative impacts suspension and expulsion have on students in Texas. With many schools utilizing discretionary sentencing for minor violations, the high costs and negative impacts of exclusionary discipline are hindering the Texas public school system.

    Excessive state money is being spent on out-of-school suspensions and school security rather than social work services. With 75% of violations strictly school code violations, the annual cost to educate one student through exclusionary discipline methods is three times the average cost of educating a student in the regular classroom.

    The Texas Appleseed report gives the following recommendations to help reduce the human and financial costs of exclusionary discipline:

  • California Legislation Targets School Discipline

    California Governor Jerry Brown has signed two bills that seek to reform school discipline in California schools.

    The first, Assembly Bill 1729, introduces intervening means of behavior correction prior to suspension or expulsion. Such behavior correction could include tiered interventions that occur during the school day, a parent-teacher conference, a restorative justice program, or an after-school program focusing on positive activities and behaviors.

    The second, Assembly Bill 2537, clarifies that over-the-counter medication and toy guns in schools do not immediately trigger zero-tolerance penalties. School administrators may still make such a determination, but it is no longer automatic. This permits some degree of case-by-case analysis into an individual student’s behavior and intent.



  • NC Teens, Police, Community Join Forces to Stop Bullying Epidemic

    Our small community has been deeply affected by bullying. Last year, two teenage girls committed suicide after being bullied. This school year, we’ve already had five students bring weapons to school to protect themselves from bullies. And two out of three students referred to our Teen Court program for simple assault, simple affray or disorderly conduct are there because of bullying-related incidents.

    Recognizing the need to address bullying in schools, our young people, police officers and community members decided to take a stand by creating a short movie. The movie was written and acted by students, many of whom have been involved in bullying.

  • Ineffective School Discipline Policies Threaten Public Safety

    Law enforcement leaders recently banded together to highlight an important – but perhaps surprising –issue in public safety: school discipline.

    San Bernardino County, CA District Attorney Michael Ramos, Sheriff Keith Royal, president of the California State Sheriffs’ Association, Sacramento Police Chief Rick Braziel, Ceres Police Chief Art de Werk, and the president of the California Police Chiefs Association all recently gathered in California to highlight ineffective school discipline policies that actually detract from public safety.

    The officials noted that suspending and expelling students for minor offenses increases the number of youths out of the supervised school environment and on the streets, where they are far more likely to engage in troublemaking or even criminal behavior. The law enforcement coalition further pointed out the link between suspensions and dropping out of school, impacting both crime rates and educational gains.

    The Sheriffs, Police Chiefs, and District Attorney spoke out after a report released by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids found high rates of suspension for low-level misbehavior. The group contrasted these poor outcomes with the positive gains and cost savings possible with alternative, more traditional school discipline measures which often involve restorative justice.

  • Stop Bullying by Promoting Pro-Social Skills on the Playground

    For too many children, violence in the news, on television, on the Internet and even just beyond the schoolyard fences, is a part of their daily lives. The last thing we need is for our children to be exposed to violence in school. Unfortunately, violence does occur in schools every day, in the form of bullying. Bullying is defined as the “intentional aggressive behavior that tips the balance of power and is often repeated over time.”And according to the National School Climate Center, every seven minutes a child is bullied on a school playground.

    When bullying, teasing and name-calling are present on a school campus, it contributes to an environment in which students’ physical and social-emotional safety is at risk. It is the responsibility of the school, and in the best interest of the grown-ups working there, to create safe communities that ultimately help contribute to learning.

    The good news is that there is a way to prevent bullying, one that focuses on recess and extends into the classroom. At Playworks, we have been promoting safe, healthy play on schoolyards for the past 16 years. A recent study by Mathematica Policy Research and Stanford University showed that Playworks schools not only prevent bullying, but increase students’ feeling of safety and inclusion.

  • Back to School Survey: Teens' Take on Drugs, Alcohol in Schools

    A survey of over 1000 12 to 17-year-olds across the United States revealed the drastically high rate at which schools are becoming increasingly “drug infected” as well as the easy accessibility that teens have to drugs. The “Back to School Survey”, published by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA Columbia), also covers teens’ perspectives on their attitudes toward drugs and alcohol and their parents’ opinions on drug and alcohol use, as well as the impact that drug and alcohol related images have on their peers.

    The 2012 report stated that 60% of students reported that their schools are drug infected, meaning that drugs are used, kept or sold on school premises. Nearly 97% percent of students say that they have friends who use drugs or alcohol and nearly all students questioned said that they knew students who used while at school. Students estimated about 1 in 5 of their classmates are using drugs or alcohol while at school. This trend of drug infected schools isn’t specific to public schools. The gap between drug infected public and private schools has continually narrowed since the survey began in the early 1990s. In 2012, 54%, an increase of 50% from 2011, of students who attend private schools reported that their schools were drug infected.

  • Targeting School Truancy Outside of the Juvenile Justice System

    Beginning this week, students in Los Angeles’ Unified School District who are truant three times or more will no longer be automatically ticketed and sent to court.

    Instead, the youth will first be sent to a counselor at a Youth WorkForce Center, who will be tasked with figuring out what is causing the truancy in the first place. The counselor will then seek to provide the tools to fix the problem, and hopefully increase the number of kids who graduate rather than drop out.

    Under the previous policy, three truancy violations resulted in a ticket, which required the youth to appear in court with his or her parent, and pay a hefty fine. This resulted in an estimated 10,000 tickets each school year.

    School officials and court administrators are hoping this policy will reduce court costs and permit more efficient use of judicial resources, as well as ensure truancy is better addressed in Los Angeles.

  • Promise Unfulfilled: Juvenile Justice in America

    In partnership with several juvenile justice advocates around the country, Cathryn Crawford, a national expert in juvenile and criminal justice, has edited a new book entitled "Promise Unfulfilled: Juvenile Justice in America" (IDEA 2012).

    Through a combination of original and reprinted articles written by academics, lawyers, and advocates, “Promise Unfulfilled” addresses the problems with designing and implementing effective systems to deal with children in conflict with the law, and it describes various challenges children in the juvenile justice system face and offers suggestions for reform.

    The authors include James Bell, Founder and Director of the W. Haywood Burns Institute, who wrote on the over-incarceration of youth of color; Jacqueline Bullard, an appellate defender in Illinois, who wrote on best interest versus expressed interest representation of minors in delinquency court; and Neelum Arya (Barry Law, Campaign for Youth Justice) who wrote on state legislative victories from 2005-2010 in the area of removing youth from the adult criminal justice system. I have a chapter that is adapted from my article, Culture Clash: The Challenge of Lawyering Across Difference in Juvenile Court, 62 Rutgers L. Rev. 959 (2010). There are also chapters on the school-to-prison pipeline, addressing the mental health needs of juveniles, and best practices for working with girls in the delinquency system.

  • The Dramatic Effects of Chronic Absenteeism

    You have to be in school to do well in school. This is the primary takeaway from the recently released report, titled "The Importance of Being There: A Report on Absenteeism in the Nation's Public Schools," authored by Robert Balfanz and Vaughan Byrnes. Balfanz and Byrnes estimate that between 5 and 7.5 million students are not attending school regularly. This means up to 7.5 million students miss ten percent or more of the school year or missed over a month of school days during the previous school year.

    The data collected in this report shows that one group in particular is more vulnerable to becoming chronically absent. While gender and location did not play substantial roles in the rates of chronic absenteeism, poverty impacted chronic absenteeism more than any other characteristic. Not only are children living in poverty the most likely students to become chronically absent, but those are also the children who benefit most from education, as education is one of the most effective strategies to provide a path out of poverty.

  • Helping Youth Feel Safe, Cared For Key to Breaking School-to-Prison Pipeline

    Editor's note: This story is part of a 10-part investigative series: Lessening the impact of incarceration in Oakland.

    Nick Smith was shuttled from high school to high school in recent years, whenever a relative died or was shot.

    When his mother died of cancer three years ago he moved from San Ramon Valley High School to San Leandro High so he could live with his older brother. When his brother was shot and killed, he moved to Oakland to live with another brother. By the time he got to Oakland Technical High School his senior year, he discovered he hadn't taken enough core academic courses to graduate. Nobody had counseled him to take the right classes; indeed he did not have any adult in his life he could turn to for advice.

    “Teachers can’t interpret a student’s situation," Smith said of what it was like to be in school during all the rocky and sad events of the past few years. "They didn’t know what was going on.”

    Adding to the wounds, staff at some of the high schools did not seem to expect much from him or care one way or another what happened to him.

  • Advocates Say Schools in Juvenile Detention Facilities are Failing Kids

    CINCINNATI – Learning can be difficult under the best of circumstances. But for those young people inside the nation’s youth detention centers, the barriers to learning can be enormous indeed.

    This was just one of the messages that came out of a panel discussion at a conference in Cincinnati today sponsored by the Children’s Defense Fund, the first such large-scale meeting of the child advocacy organization in a decade.

    The panel, Meeting the Educational Needs of Children in the Juvenile Justice System: Challenges and Opportunities, concentrated on highlighting problems and introducing ideas for reforming detention center school systems.

    Panelists, including David Sapp of the American Civil Liberties Union, Lia Venchi, a teacher at a school for youth in detention and David Domenici, a member of the See Forever Foundation, said most of the reforms implemented in schools within juvenile justice facilities have been forced as a result of litigation or administrative complaints, making public attention the biggest force for change in what are usually highly secretive environments.

  • Beating the School-to-Prison Pipeline by Focusing on Truancy, Absenteeism

    Editor's note: This story is part of a 10-part investigative series: Lessening the impact of incarceration in Oakland.

    Judge Gloria Rhynes leveled with the young Oakland mother whose third grader had missed two months of school.

    "Did you know, the California Department of Corrections looks at who is absent in the third grade to figure out how many prison cells they are going to need when those children are adults?" Judge Rhynes, an Alameda County Superior Court judge, asked her as the mother’s case was heard in Truancy Court one morning in early May.

    "The correlation is that strong," between missing school in the elementary years and winding up in jail, she said, between not learning third grade skills of reading and multiplication to falling so far behind in middle school that by high school the student drops out, the Judge continued. "I just convicted a 19-year old to 30 years to life. Do you think he had an education? Heck no."

    Two out of three kids who drop out of Oakland public schools come into contact with the criminal justice system, according to an Oakland Unified School District report. And the dropout rate is 37 percent among Oakland public high school students. In some of Oakland's poorest neighborhoods, more than half of high school students do not graduate.

  • TONIGHT: NBC Profiles Maya Angelou Academy, School Inside Juvenile Correctional Facility
    by LIZ WU

    Tonight, on Rock Center with Brian Williams, correspondent Chelsea Clinton goes inside the Maya Angelou Academy, the school located within the District of Columbia's long-term youth correctional facility. Here's a preview clip:

    Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

    From the clip's description:

  • It’s Just a Bad Egg, Throw it Away
    by JEN SEGAL

    A carton comes with 12 eggs, so what’s the big deal to just toss the bad one? There are 11 left.

    If only everything was that easy.

    Yesterday, Advancement Project, along with partners the Gay-Straight Alliance Network, and the Alliance for Educational Justice released a policy paper titled, Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right: Why Zero Tolerance is Not the Solution to Bullying. The Advancement Project works to eliminate the overuse of harsh discipline policies in schools. In compliment of this release, Advancement Project and the Gay-Straight Alliance Network hosted a Twitter town hall.

    So, what happened?

  • SAMHSA Releases New Toolkit on Suicide Prevention in High Schools
    by SAMHSA

    Suicide is one of the nation’s greatest public health problems – but it is also completely preventable. If all of us work together in an effort to reach out and help those at risk we can prevent the needless devastation suicide brings to individuals, loved ones and communities across the nation.

    In order to provide practical help in this effort the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has developed a new toolkit entitled Preventing Suicide: A Toolkit for High Schools. The toolkit aims at reducing the risk of suicide among high school students by providing research-based guidelines and resources to assist school administrators, principals, mental health professionals, health educators, guidance counselors, nurses, student services coordinators, teachers and others identify teenagers at risk and take appropriate measures to provide help.

    The tool kit offers information on screening tools, warning signs and risk factors of suicide, statistics, and parent education materials.

  • Join the 6/26 Twitter Chat on Bullying
    by LIZ WU

    On Tuesday, June 26th, the Advancement Project, Gay-Straight Alliance Network and the Alliance for Educational Justice are hosting a Twitter chat on bullying. In particular, they will explore strategies that schools can take to end bullying. They will also discuss zero-tolerance and school-to-prison pipeline policies.

    The three organizations are also releasing a policy report on bullying and zero-tolerance disciplinary measures.

    To join the conversation, use the #bullychat hashtag on Twitter and RSVP on Facebook for the opportunity to submit questions ahead of time.

  • David Domenici: Educators Can and Should Break the School-to-Prison Pipeline
    by LIZ WU

    Speaking at the New Schools - Aspen Institute Summit 2012 last week, David Domenici challenged educators to embrace troubled (and often challenging) students and to keep them in school, instead of calling the police. 

    (watch David's short talk at the 29:45 mark)

    He listed 4 focus areas:

  • Disruptive Behavior Sends Students to Court Instead of Principal's Office

    Actions that once sent students to the principal’s office to be handled by teachers and faculty are now getting Massachusetts students pulled from school entirely and sent to juvenile court in handcuffs, according to a recent report by Citizens for Juvenile Justice. Research shows that police officers are increasingly stepping in to handle behavior such as foul language, hallway misconduct and disrupting public assemblies, which has led to a significant spike in student arrests.

    Data from Springfield, Boston and Worcester, three of Massachusetts’s largest school districts, shows children as young as 11 were subject to arrest and were faced with criminal records for minor offenses during the 2007-08, 2008-09 and 2009-10 school years. Although students should be held accountable for their actions, using police and court resources instead of existing school disciplinary practices could pose severe consequences for their future. One alarming statistic noted by the report states that, “students who are arrested at school are three times more likely to drop out than those who are not.”

    Criminalizing children for these minor offenses not only limits their educational and career opportunities, but it is also costly for schools and taxpayers. Springfield schools have armed officers permanently stationed at selected schools for the entire duration of the school day, contributing to a hefty payroll percentage that could be spent on staff leadership and disciplinary training.

  • Who Are the True 'Failures' in America's School System?

    Like most teachers I've gotten some praise from my high school students over my 26 years of teaching -- a lesson "wasn't bad," or a particular class was "sorta interesting." I've even been told that I was a "pretty good teacher." High praise coming from teenagers.

    But the truth is I wasn't a "good teacher." I was a "failure," at least according to America's "education reformers" -- that "odd coalition of corporate-friendly Democrats, right-wing Republicans, Tea Party governors, Wall Street executives, and major foundations" as Diane Ravitch aptly defines them -- because the kids I taught consistently lagged behind their peers in every measure, performing well below grade level, failing state standardized tests.

    Given the present state of teacher evaluations, with a significant portion allotted to student performance on mandated tests, I'd be in big trouble if I hadn't left teaching recently. I certainly wouldn't get any bonus pay. If it were up to the Obama Administration I might not even have a job, since I would be one of those teachers who, as the president noted in his 2012 State of the Union address, "just aren't helping kids." And if I still taught in New York I'd be facing the prospect of having my name and ratings published in newspapers and on the internet if the legislature gets its way in what the New York State Union of Teachers called the "name/shame/blame game."

    But I know that I wasn't a "failure," and more importantly, that the hundreds of kids I've taught weren't either. My students were mostly young people of color, living in neighborhoods and families destroyed by poverty and substance abuse, racism and violence, physical and sexual abuse. Overall, life -- shaped by their mistakes and by conditions they couldn't control -- left them little time for, or interest in education. Frequently that lack of time and interest led to trouble which led to repeated suspensions, expulsions and in some cases, incarceration. But sometimes trouble translated into being placed in a small community alternative high school or the jailhouse classroom in the county penitentiary, both places I taught in.

  • A New Approach to School Discipline in Walla Walla, Washington

    The first time that principal Jim Sporleder tried the New Approach to Student Discipline at Lincoln High School in Walla Walla, WA, he was blown away. Because it worked. In fact, it worked so well that he never went back to the Old Approach to Student Discipline. This is how it went down:

    A student blows up at a teacher, drops the F-bomb. The usual approach at Lincoln – and, safe to say, at most high schools in this country – is automatic suspension. Instead, Sporleder sits the kid down and says quietly:

    “Wow. Are you OK? This doesn’t sound like you. What’s going on?” He gets even more specific: “You really looked stressed. On a scale of 1-10, where are you with your anger?”

    The kid was ready. Ready, man! For an anger blast to his face….”How could you do that?” “What’s wrong with you?”…and for the big boot out of school. But he was NOT ready for kindness. The armor-plated defenses melt like ice under a blowtorch and the words pour out: “My dad’s an alcoholic. He’s promised me things my whole life and never keeps those promises.” The waterfall of words that go deep into his home life, which is no piece of breeze, end with this sentence: “I shouldn’t have blown up at the teacher.”


    And then he goes back to the teacher and apologizes. Without prompting from Sporleder.

    “The kid still got a consequence,” explains Sporleder – but he wasn’t sent home, a place where there wasn’t anyone who cares much about what he does or doesn’t do. He went to ISS — in-school suspension, a quiet, comforting room where he can talk about anything with the attending teacher, catch up on his homework, or just sit and think about how maybe he could do things differently next time.

    Before the words “namby-pamby”, “weenie”, or “not the way they did things in my day” start flowing across your lips, take a look at these numbers:

    2009-2010 (Before new approach)

    798 suspensions (days students were out of school)
    50 expulsions
    600 written referrals
    2010-2011 (After new approach)

    135 suspensions (days students were out of school)
    30 expulsions
    320 written referrals

    “It sounds simple,” says Sporleder about the new approach. “Just by asking kids what’s going on with them, they just started talking. It made a believer out of me right away.”

  • Covering the Juvenile Justice System: Kids Behind Bars, the Role of the Media and More
    by LIZ WU

    Our friends at the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (JJIE) spent this week at the Kids Behind Bars: Where's the Justice in America's Juvenile Justice System? conference in New York, discussing the juvenile justice system and the role of the media in reporting facts (good) and sensationalizing stories (bad). 

    Their takeaways are relevant for journalists and bloggers but also for readers of this blog, many of whom work with(in) the juvenile system. During day 1 of the John Jay Symposium, speakers discussed:

    • the now discounted superpredator theory from the 1990s and the role of the press in perpetuating it
    • research findings showing that the human brain does not reach full maturity until the mid-20s
    • the importance of mentoring
    • disproportionate minority contact
    • school discipline policies
    • juvenile justice reform efforts

  • School Discipline: When Should Law Enforcement Step In?

    This week, several schools and districts are grappling with the issue of when—if ever—it is appropriate for police officers to get involved with school discipline issues.

    The Albuquerque school district, for example, is currently the defendant in a class action lawsuit over referring students to law enforcement for allegedly minor offenses. When a student was talking to her friend and refused to return to her seat, her teacher called the police.

    In contrast, a Georgia six-year-old throwing a violent tantrum—which included destruction of property and assault, according to published reports—was arrested and taken away in a police cruiser. She was also put in handcuffs while in the cruiser, according to standard department policy, but to the outrage of many.

  • JMATE 2012: Recovery Schools
    by LIZ WU

    Across the country, substance abusing teens are dropping out of high school at alarming rates. But a recovery high school in downtown Boston is targeting youth in recovery with great success. At a JMATE 2012 panel on recovery schools, a staff member from Ostiguy Recovery School spoke about the differences between a recovery school and a regular school. At Ostiguy Recovery School:

    • Students receive recovery support and counseling in addition to math and science
    • Students lead their own sobriety groups which empowers them to take control of their lives
    • Students WANT to be there (this is not a mandated rehab program)
    • Students outreach at area schools to let troubled students know there is another option 

  • Juvenile Justice in New Orleans: LGBT issues, School-to-Prison Pipeline and More

    On March 22nd, 2012, The Lens welcomed five panelists and over 100 attendees to its third salon at the Ashe Cultural Arts Center, which focused on the status of the juvenile justice system in the New Orleans area.

    Panelists were queried by the moderator on issues surrounding the new French Quarter youth curfew, LGBTQ youth issues in juvenile facilities, the rebuilding of the Youth Studies Center, the school to prison pipeline, and the new Orleans Parish Prison. Audience members were then invited to pose their own questions to the panel. 

  • Racial Disparities and the School-to-Prison Pipeine [video]
    by EVAN J. HILL

    Alexa Gonzalez, a 12 year old student in New York City, never imagined that an average day at school would turn into her being handcuffed. The schoolgirl was caught scribbling on her desk “I love my friends Abby and Faith” by her Spanish teacher and was immediately taken to the principal office where the police was called. She was then handcuffed, tried in family court, found guilty, had to do community service, write an essay about lessons learned from the incident and ultimately suspended from school.

    Similar events are occurring all over the country as confirmed by the U.S. Department of Education that released statistics showing that minorities, particularly African Americans and Hispanics, are being suspended and/or arrested for the same minor offenses over their White counterparts.

  • Boston Recovery School Turns Teen Addicts into Graduates
    by LIZ WU

    Last night, CBS News ran a segment on a recovery school in Boston that takes teen addicts and turns them into graduates with a bright future.

    For students, the recovery school is a place to learn while also receiving recovery support from staff who have struggled with these issues themselves.

  • Suspensions, Expulsions Mask the True Issue

    Recently, the U.S. Department of Education released a study documenting disproportionality in rates of suspensions and expulsions in public schools across the United States.

    The report, which covered 72,000 schools across the United States, states that African-Americans only make up 18 percent of youth at the studied schools, but 35 percent of students suspended once and 39 percent of those expelled.

    These findings mirror one aspect of a Texas study released last year, which found that African-American students in Texas were 31 percent more likely to be disciplined in school, at least once, than otherwise identical Caucasian or Hispanic students.

    Jason Riley of the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board looked at these findings and deduced that this highlights the need for increased school choice. Just as importantly, it highlights another education reform priority – the overcriminalization of students of all races.

    As zero tolerance policies have increased in both scope and consequences (now covering fish oil dietary supplements, asthma inhalers, oregano, and butter knives), more and more minor misbehavior spurs referrals to the justice system or triggers suspensions, when it previously would have been handled through parental involvement or traditional disciplinary methods, such as a visit to the principal’s office, after-school detention, or requiring the student to perform school or community service.

  • Bullying, Substance Abuse and Where to Go From Here
    by LIZ WU

    Sticks and stones may break bones, but mean words and taunts are proving to be harmful as well. Every day, kids across the country are bullied at school. Not only does this behavior make it difficult for them to learn, but in some cases, students skip school from fear of being bullied. 

    Last year, the White House elevated this issue by holding a bullying prevention summit to provide resources for schools. And recently, pop sensation Lady Gaga launched the Born This Way Foundation to empower teens to be nicer and more accepting of each other. "The victim and the bully are both going through mental turmoil," noted Gaga at the launch event. "Don't just save the victim, save the bully."

    Gaga may be onto something. A new study published in Addictive Behaviors, found that bullies are more likely to use alcohol, drugs and cigarettes than non-bullies. And four out of five youth arrests either involve substance use, are committed while under the influence, or the kid later admits to having a substance abuse problem.

    So where do we go from here?

  • Black Students Face More Discipline in Schools
    by LIZ WU

    New data from the Department of Education finds that black males face much harsher discipline in public schools than other students. These findings validate what many activists have been saying for awhile: that there is increasingly a school-to-prison pipeline for students of color.

    From the New York Times

    Although black students made up only 18 percent of those enrolled in the schools sampled, they accounted for 35 percent of those suspended once, 46 percent of those suspended more than once and 39 percent of all expulsions, according to the Civil Rights Data Collection’s 2009-10 statistics from 72,000 schools in 7,000 districts, serving about 85 percent of the nation’s students. The data covered students from kindergarten age through high school.

    One in five black boys and more than one in 10 black girls received an out-of-school suspension. Over all, black students were three and a half times as likely to be suspended or expelled than their white peers.

    And in districts that reported expulsions under zero-tolerance policies, Hispanic and black students represent 45 percent of the student body, but 56 percent of those expelled under such policies.

    “Education is the civil rights of our generation,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, in a telephone briefing with reporters on Monday. “The undeniable truth is that the everyday education experience for too many students of color violates the principle of equity at the heart of the American promise.”

  • Former Teen Offender Honored as Local Hero for Inspiring Incarcerated Youth

    In a juvenile detention center there is dedicated teacher who refuses to let students fail. He knows their hardships. He knows how to help them succeed. He’s been through it himself.

    “We try to help our students realize their potential and let them know they can achieve,” said East Mesa Detention Facility teacher JiAel Brownell.

    Brownell, 32, was recently honored by Union Bank and KPBS as a Local Hero in celebration of Black History Month. KPBS sent a camera crew to interview him on the job last month about his work with juvenile offenders.

    Brownell teaches English, Social Studies and U.S. History to the longer-term offenders.

    “He’s not giving up on me or just watching me fail,” said Sergio Ramirez Fuerta, 18, one of Brownell’s students. “I tell him, ‘I can’t do it’ and he tells me, ‘Don’t give up’ and I trust him.”

    Fuerta said he needs special help at times because he wasn’t attending school before he got in trouble. Since experiencing some success in Brownell’s classroom, he said he now plans to get his diploma when he finishes his sentence.

  • Reassessing School Safety in Light of Monday's School Shooting Tragedy in Ohio

    As policymakers and the general public grapple with responding to and making sense of Monday's tragic shooting in Ohio, the Justice Policy Institute, which has studied school violence prevention for more than a decade, emphasizes that communities should increase the use of practices proven to keep schools safe, and avoid ineffective policies that would lead to worse outcomes for youth and communities.

    "Yesterday was a tragic day in Ohio, and for all of us who want safe schools, and safe communities for our young people," stated Tracy Velázquez, Executive Director of the Justice Policy Institute. "As we all try to understand how and why an event like this happened, we need to soberly reflect on what really works to reduce school-violence and help at-risk kids before something goes wrong, and resist the temptation to seek solutions that sound tough, but are ineffective."

    Based on recent research conducted by JPI and leading educational researchers, practices proven to improve school safety include the following:

    • Implement evidence-based initiatives proven to improve safety in schools: School districts should work toward abandoning zero tolerance and law enforcement responses to student behavior and begin relying on evidence-based programs that include peer mediation, mentoring and peaceable education.
    • Hire more counselors: Guidance counselors and school psychologists are trained to be mentors and work with youth, and are a positive investment in schools. However, schools are not fully staffing according to accepted standards. The American School Counselor Association says that school counselors should consider their roles to include skills in conflict-resolution particular to schools, to intervene in cases of bullying and harassment, and to prevent and intervene in cases where there might be substance abuse issues or the potential for violence. Fully implemented guidance counselor programs have also been found to promote feelings of safety in both poorer and wealthier schools.
    • Invest in education over an increased justice system responses to student behavior: With the array of negative collateral consequences associated with involvement in the juvenile justice system, it is important that policymakers and administrators focus efforts to better our education system as opposed to relying on increased justice system interventions. Some ways to both improve student achievement and promote safer schools include increased hiring of quality teachers, staff, counselors, and other positive role models; building safe, clean schools; and providing training and supports for teachers and staff related to behavior management.
    • Avoid policies that will make schools less safe, and harm kids: Unnecessary referrals to the juvenile justice system disrupt a student's educational process - practices that can lead to suspension, expulsion, or other alienation from school. These negative effects set youth on a track to drop out of school and put them at greater risk of becoming involved in the justice system later on, all at tremendous costs to the youth themselves, their families, their communities and to taxpayers. More police in schools, including School Resource Officers (SROs) have not been shown to create more safety, and can have negative impacts both on school environment and on youth, as schools rely on arrests rather than school-based responses, pulling youth into the justice system.

  • Weighing the Cost of School Suspensions in Massachusetts

    The New England Center for Investigative Reporting recently reported findings detailing disciplinary trends within the public education system of Massachusetts.

    According to the analysis, almost 200,000 school days were lost to out-of-school and in-school suspensions and expulsions during the 2009-2010 school year.

    The organization said that days lost to suspension or expulsions during the timeframe were equal to about 10 percent of the 172 million school days accumulated by the state’s nearly 1 million public school students.

    The analysis reports that while the Boston school system is more likely to expel students permanently, the Worchester school system ultimately totaled up more lost school days due to disciplinary actions, with approximately 5,000 lost school days compared to the capital city’s estimated 2,765.

    The analysis also found that more than 2,000 students, some as young as age 4, were suspended from the state’s early elementary programs, which entails pre-kindergarten to third grade classes.

  • National School Counseling Week
    by LIZ WU

    It's National School Counseling Week so let's take a moment to thank our school counselors for their efforts in helping students achieve school success and plan for a career. 

    From the California Department of Education:

    This special week honors school counselors for the important role they play in helping students examine their talents, strengths, abilities, and interests. Counselors work in professional partnerships with teachers and support personnel to provide an educational system where students can realize their true potential. As all educators focus their efforts on improving academic achievement for all students, it is important that we recognize school counselors for their continuing efforts in reducing barriers to learning and in providing the support necessary for all students to achieve at the highest level.

  • The Need for Developmental Competence for Adults working with Youth

    A New Mexico federal court judge recently received a complaint citing the following facts: a 13-year-old boy repeatedly belched in class. While this was amusing to his pals, the teacher found it disruptive.

    Unable to get the 13-year-old to stop, the teacher called the school resource officer. The officer refused to arrest the boy for belching, but the teacher insisted. The officer arrested the boy.

    The media indicted the officer. The boy, fearing the loss of his status as a nationally ranked baseball player, fell apart. The mother removed her son from the school.

    This lose-lose scenario is not unusual. At Strategies for Youth (SFY), an advocacy and training organization dedicated to improving police/youth interactions, we hear of such cases two or three times a week.

    For the adults involved, the result is frustration and defensiveness; for the youth involved, the result is trauma and distrust and the dangerous lesson that “might makes right.”

    Some incidents are resolved in court; many receive big headlines but little follow-up in the media. There are often calls for investigation, questions about racial bias, and further entrenchment of adversarial attitudes that lead to expensive and usually unhelpful extensions of anguish for most of, if not all, the parties involved.

    We can do better.

  • New Report: Policing Chicago Public Schools

    “Our schools have become almost like satellite police stations.” – Steve Drizin (1)

    Project NIA is pleased to announce the release of a new report titled “Policing Chicago Public Schools: A Gateway to the School-to-Pipeline.” The report relies on data from the Chicago Police Department (CPD) to show (for the first time in seven years) the type of offenses and the demographics (gender, age and race) of the juveniles arrested on Chicago Public Schools properties in calendar year 2010. We were limited because CPD reports data by police district rather than by individual school.

    In the 2003-2004 academic year, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) had about 1,700 security staff, nearly tripling in number in five years (2). We were unable to obtain the current number of security guards in CPS despite repeated requests. We are sure that this number exceeds the 1,700 from the 2003-2004 academic year. The presence of so many security staff and especially police officers in schools means that school discipline issues quickly turn into police records.

  • 2011's top 10 stories on juvenile justice and adolescent substance abuse
    by LIZ WU

    Here are our top 10 stories on juvenile justice and adolescent substance abuse from 2011:

    #10. School Superintendent to Governor: Please make my school a prison
    A Michigan public school superintendent asked the state's Governor to classify his school as a prison in order to receive additional funding for his students.

    #9. School-to-prison pipeline: Why school discipline is the key (video) and what to do about it
    We took a look at school disciplinary policies and Connecticut's efforts to disrupt the pipeline and educate its kids.

    #8. House Appropriations Committee eliminates most juvenile justice funding
    John Kelly took a look at a bill before the House of Representatives that would eliminate most federal spending for juvenile justice activities. 

    #7. SAMHSA changes substance abuse and mental health block grants - your comments (still) needed!
    SAMHSA revamped its block grant applications for substance abuse and mental health treatment and asked for comments on proposed changes.

    #6. Adolescent substance abuse: "bath salts" an emerging risk
    We warned about the emerging use of "bath salts" as stimulants and the DEA's reaction against them.

    Stay tuned for the TOP FIVE stories of 2011! And in case you missed them, and check out the top 20 and top 15.

  • 2011's top 20 stories on juvenile justice and adolescent substance abuse, part 2
    by LIZ WU

    Continuing the countdown of the top 20 most popular stories on juvenile justice and adolescent substance abuse of 2011: 

    #15. Why police need to better understand trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
    Lisa H. Thurau explained why it's so important for police officers to understand the effects of trauma on children.

    #14. Webinar: The School-to-Prison Pipeline
    In this webinar, Judge Steven Teske explained how one school district worked to reduce referrals to juvenile courts while simultaneously addressing disruptive behavior. (The archived webinar is available for viewing.)

    #13. "Beyond 'Scared Straight'" returns to promote a discredited juvenile justice intervention (roundup)
    Ahead of the second season of "Beyond 'Scared Straight,'" we shared coverage discrediting Scared Straight and its methods.

    #12. Why more cops in schools is a bad idea
    A new report from the Justice Policy Institute found that an increase in the presence of law enforcement in schools coincides with increases in referrals to the juvenile justice system, especially for minor offenses like disordly conduct.

    #11. Teen brain development: neural gawkiness
    Chris Sturgis explained what goes on in the child and teenage brain and how we can use that knowledge to help youngsters keep out of trouble.

     Stay tuned for the TOP TEN most popular stories.. 

  • DC black students expelled at greater rate than white students
    by LIZ WU

    Black students in the DC area are being suspended and expelled from school 2 to 5 times as often as white students. This disturbing fact has big implications for youth and the juvenile justice system.

    A new analysis by The Washington Post found that almost 6 percent of black students were suspended or expelled from school last year, compared with 1.2 percent of white students. Across the country, 15 percent of black students were suspended, compared with five percent of white students, 7 percent of Hispanics and 3 percent of Asians. 

    In many states, students are suspended not only for violent acts but also for disrespect, defiance, insubordination, disruption and bad language. These infractions are subjective and give educators a lot of leeway in deciding when to report students.

    As The Washington Post explains:

    The stakes are high for those who get booted out of school.

    Out-of-school suspensions mean lost classroom time and, for some, disconnection from school. A recent landmark study of nearly a million Texas children showed that suspension increased the likelihood of repeating a grade that year and landing in the juvenile-justice system the next year. It also was linked to dropping out.

  • Advice for parents of troubled teens
    by H. E. HOLLIDAY

    I have a 15-year-old son who, in the past year, has gone from a quiet, well- mannered, well- liked child to a stranger to me. He hasn’t attended school in about two months. He comes and goes as he pleases, he will not respect the curfews I set for him and sometimes is gone for days on end. He has started smoking and he has admitted to smoking weed. He doesn’t listen to anyone and if we try and talk to him he just leaves. I don’t want to throw him out of the house but I just don’t know what to do. His behavior is taking its toll on me. — Noreen

    Many parents are struggling with similar problems. So the first thing Noreen should know is that she shouldn’t feel alone.

    Look in your neighborhood or church and notice all the parents who seem to have it all together. One of the very first things I would advise you to do is to seek counsel from some of those successful parents. I would also strongly encourage you to establish contact with your son’s school to request assistance in addressing his specific challenges. Our tax supported schools deal with these sorts of challenges every day and many have targeted resources at their disposal to counter these problems. You must ask for information on specific adolescence or male-oriented programs that have proven successful over the years. Then, you must then develop a relationship with the leaders of that program to give them a sense of urgency about your son. Do not be put off by their busy schedules. The old adage “the squeaky wheel gets the grease,” is very true when dealing with most large organizations. You must be diligent and persistent if you truly want to redirect the life of your son.

    I would then encourage you to work on establishing lines of communication with your child. It is not unusual for adults to lose the ability to communicate with their children effectively. You must now identify what those barriers are and strategically remove them one at a time.

    I would enlist the support of a valued male relative or friend who can oftentimes better identify with younger males because they have already transitioned into adulthood. They can better identify and anticipate what some of the experiences your son has/will encounter. Young men are often confused about where they fit in life and need actual role models to help them work through this sometimes very difficult period. You must partner with a dependable male who has good communication skills, who is willing to spend some-one-on-one time with your son. Many schools and organizations such as the Boys & Girls Clubs, scouting and athletic teams have very active and effective mentoring programs for young people. They do a thorough job of screening and training the adult mentors who work with their students.

  • Arresting school kids: Tide turns against zero tolerance

    Several news stories across the United States last month focused on the alarming increase in the number of students arrested inside public schools—and for alarmingly minor behavior.

    The Justice Policy Institute recently released a large study on the use of police officers in schools and the resulting arrest rates of students. The report discusses how reports of victimization and bullying have no correlation, positive or negative, with the presence of police officers in schools.

    Further, schools with in-house police officers are funneling more kids into the juvenile justice system. A study of such schools found that five times as many students were arrested for disorderly conduct at those schools, even when controlling for economic factors.

    Arresting kids for minor misbehavior that would more appropriately be addressed with standard school and parental discipline imposes a high cost on the juvenile justice system, and states are taking notice.

  • Why more cops in schools is a bad idea

    Via the Justice Policy Institute comes a new report titled Education Under Arrest: The Case Against Police in Schools. The report cites recent cases to conclude that increases in the presence of law enforcement agents in schools, especially in the form of school resource officers (SROs), coincides with increases in referrals to the juvenile justice system, especially for minor offenses like disorderly conduct.

    The report concludes the trend causing lasting harm, as arrests and referrals to the juvenile justice system disrupt the educational process and can lead to suspensions, expulsions or other alienation from school.

    From the Justice Policy's companion blog post: "All of these negative effects set youth on a track to drop out of school and put them at greater risk of becoming involved in the justice system later on, all at tremendous costs for taxpayers aswell the youth themselves and their communities."

    You can dowload the full report (PDF) here.

  • Schools to prison pipeline: today’s civil rights issue

    It was against the law during slave days, to teach a slave to read or write — denial of education goes way back. Also, during reconstruction, and later, there were efforts by white lawmakers to have more punitive and longer sentences for crimes they thought black people were more likely to commit. Today, we face a whole spectrum beginning with racial profiling and ending with the large number of black men who have been executed or who await execution on death row.

    Then, when looking at issues of public education, I realized the school system here in Atlanta and indeed all over the country was re-segregating and the process was closely connected with the large number of young black men going into the prison system.

    Several groups began working to stop this “school to prison” pipeline and we continue today as the problem worsens. One of the worst elements of this tragedy is the connection to money — of course — and the vast sums being spent on building prisons and keeping them filled.

    Under President George W. Bush, private prisons started flourishing, often in poor rural areas where people welcomed them, hoping it would improve the local economy. The number of beds for prisoners in each institution and the prison population determine the income the state pays to these private corporations. One can see the analogy of a system where people are traded on Wall Street instead of a slave block in Charleston.

    With more than 2 million people in prison, the United States has the world’s highest incarceration rate. If you add those on probation and parole, the figure is 6.5 million, or one in every 32 adults. The majority of U.S. inmates are black males, but prison populations increasingly include Latinos, other minorities, and the poor in general.

    [read more after the jump]