Tag Archives: juvenile justice

We Need Real Education Transition Policies for Incarcerated Students

Last month, I gave testimony before the California Senate Education Committee on SB 304, a bill to define the required elements of an education transition plan for a student leaving a juvenile court school and returning to a community-based school. Current California law requires agencies to coordinate a transition plan but doesn’t specify what needs to be in that plan. Some jurisdictions have developed robust policies and practices supporting integrated service provision and continuous care, but many have not, leaving already marginalized students to fend for themselves when their education is disrupted.

The outcomes aren’t good: incarcerated ninth graders may eventually return to school in their communities but within a year of re-enrolling, an estimated two-thirds to three-fourths drop out. After four years, less than fifteen percent of them will complete high school. Aside from hurting these students’ lives and opportunities, this pattern destabilizes communities, creates a drag on our economy, and affects the outcomes for the next generation of young people.

This bill defines the elements of a transition plan, including the most basic expectations like a portfolio of documents that includes current transcripts and results of academic assessments. Conveniently, this bill aligns perfectly with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which now requires states to provide transition plans that assist students moving from correctional facilities to locally operated schools. Continue reading

Dispatch from #EP2016

New Juvenile Justice Law Does a Lot for Students, But Not Enough

JJDPA is the Juvenile Justice Delinquency and Prevention Act. After sitting for more than a decade without authorization, it passed the House last week and now moves on to the Senate.

Originating in the Education and Workforce Committee, it’s touted as a big progressive reform. And it is in fact, it does far more for young people who are incarceratstudent-1647136_1920ed than this year’s federal education package, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). There are reasons to cheer for the new statute, but it still doesn’t do enough to ensure that kids who are locked up have the high-quality education experiences that they need in order to return to their communities as productive participants.

The Committee factsheet lays out the four general sections of the bill:

  • provisions to ensure the continuity of young people’s education while incarcerated;
  • clear guidance and directions for states and localities on how to reduce racial and ethnic disparities among incarcerated youth;
  • better reporting of important juvenile justice metrics to the Office of Juvenile Jus
    tice and Delinquency Prevention;
  • and provisions to ensure accountability in the use of federal resources devoted to juvenile justice initiatives.

(Unrelated to education, it also refines and strengthens important protections for children detained in the juvenile and adult systems by clarifying a number of judicial and correctional regulations and procedures.)

That first bullet point: “provisions to ensure the continuity of young people’s education while incarcerated” is both promising and disappointing. In fact, this statute doesn’t do much more than most of us probably assumed was already a well-established minimum standard. Continue reading

The Error of Our Ways: Education and Mass Incarceration

Originally published on Bellwether and The 74’s live blog of the DNC.

In 1996, Hillary Clinton, in support of her husband’s sweeping crime bill, gave an interview in which she invoked the “superpredator,” a criminal so corrupted that they were irredeemable. That narrative stoked the fear that has driven two decades of prison and jail expansion, militarized local police, and zero tolerance school discipline policies. But times have changed.

prison-370112_960_720In just the last few years, we’ve watched the tide turn in our national discourse on incarceration, and it’s clear that the speakers at last week’s convention have joined the call by Education Secretary John King and others to shift resources away from the criminal justice system and into our schools. It’s not just our federal leaders in a crisis of conscience, states, school districts, and charter schools are rethinking their approaches to student behavior. They’re spurred by a realization that they have been complicit in a broken system.

Dr. Maya Angelou once reflected, “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” During the primary campaign, there were loud voices insisting that Hillary’s 1996 comments were fair game for criticism. And they were. But if we as a society take the principles of growth and redemption seriously, then we need to take a close look at what’s different about this campaign and how Clinton has changed in the last 20 years. If you believe in second chances, then that stuff matters.  

Hillary has spoken explicitly about racial justice, mass incarceration, and the need to invest in supportive services in communities. Kate Burdick, a long-time education advocate, Eric Holder, and the students of Eagle Academy, joined the lineup of speakers at the DNC last week to talk about Hillary’s focus on education and justice reform. And in his speech last Monday, Bernie Sanders credited Hillary Clinton with understanding that we need to make sure that young people “are in good schools and in good jobs, not rotting in jail cells.”

While Hillary shouldn’t be accountable for her husband’s policies, she is responsible for her own words — words that she now publicly regrets. If she follows that up with real action on education like her platform suggests, it could be a demonstration of the self-aware leader who does better once they know better and an example for us all.

How Trump’s Rhetoric Impacts Students

Read more live coverage of #EDlection2016 via Bellwether and The 74’s Convention Live Blog.

The last few weeks have been traumatic. More African-American men were killed by police. And snipers executed 8 officers in Dallas, Texas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It’s times like these when we need our President to reassure us and help deescalate the tension.

But, Donald Trump wholly lacks this quality. Over the past year, he has shown no desire or ability to reconcile differences, to heal wounds, or to soothe suffering. Instead, Trump uses his candidacy to encourage intolerance and incite violence.

Donald TrumpShould Trump win the Presidency, his rhetoric encouraging violence would have dire consequences in American schools. Already, teachers report a “Trump Effect,” corresponding with increased fear, bullying, and racial tensions. Elementary school children are organizing against him because his rhetoric and policies alienate them and their families.

Under a Trump Administration the trouble wouldn’t stop there.

In fact, Trump’s positions on school safety would undercut efforts and progress we’ve made toward closing the school-to-prison pipeline. For example, instead of decreasing police presence in schools, he wants to go several steps in the other direction and arm teachers. From here, it doesn’t take much imagination to envision Trump doubling down on failed zero-tolerance policies, pushing for greater police presence in schools, as well as adding metal detectors and other security measures in schools.

As history has shown time and time again, this kind of reaction to tragedy and violence in schools is the wrong response. More police means more arrests, not less violence. Moreover, these policies and practices disproportionately target students of color. The most recent Civil Rights Data Collection found black students are 2.3 times as likely to be referred to law enforcement as white students. They also found large race-based disparities in school suspensions, even in preschool.  

For students, the results are devastating.

A single suspension can double a student’s likelihood of dropping out.  A recent study found that disproportionate experiences with school discipline contribute significantly to the race-based achievement gap. Another found that the achievement of students who are never suspended is negatively affected in a school with a high-rate of suspension. In fact, suspensions don’t even work as a deterrent. The likelihood of a student being suspended actually increases after their first suspension.  

All of these problems would likely be compounded under Trump. The progress made in states like Maryland and Connecticut toward reducing exclusionary discipline, limiting arrests, and increasing school safety would be threatened — and perhaps lost altogether.

Trump seems to believe that the thing to do when faced with violence and unrest is to be “strong,” unapologetic, and uncompromising. But in truth, the brave thing is not to clench your fist and be combative. The courageous thing is to deescalate the situation and find workable solutions.

Unfortunately, Trump favors bringing a gun to a knife fight when in reality the answer is to stop fighting.