28 U.S. Cities Join National Week of Action on School Pushout
October 1-8: Students, Parents, Teachers and Education Advocates Engage in Simultaneous Actions and Events Around the Country
New York, NY - From Saturday, October 1 to Saturday, October 8th thousands of parents, youth, and educators are taking part in student-led actions and events in 28 cities to expose the school pushout crisis in our nation and advocate for the human right of every young person to a quality education and to be treated with dignity. The events and actions include street theater, public forums, rallies, restorative justice trainings, and more.
"We are demanding that our schools adopt a new approach to discipline so they can once again be a place where our children feel welcome and safe. Schools should be a place where our children can focus on learning while also being treated with dignity and respect," said Wanda Parker, a parent organizer with Citizens for a Better Greenville. “As parents, students, teachers and community members across the country take part in this week’s Dignity in Schools Campaign National Week of Action on School Pushout, this is the vision we are fighting for."
The National Week of Action kicked-off on Saturday, October 1 with events held in 7 cities including Oakland, California; Lawrenceville, Georgia; Europa, Lexington, Pontotoc and Winona, Mississippi; and Boston, Massachusetts. The events included a ”Know Your Rights” training on juvenile justice advocacy in Mississippi, a community conversation on “The Role of Progressive People of Color in the Fight to End the School to Prison Pipeline” in Boston, a community conversation to improve graduation rates and prevent school pushout in Georgia, and a panel discussion, “Do Oakland Students Deserve a Quality Education?”, held in Oakland, California.
The Week of Action continued on Monday and Tuesday with events held in Miami, Florida; Chicago, Illinois; New Orleans, Louisiana; Baltimore, Maryland; New York, New York; Portland, Oregon; and six cities in Mississippi - Europa, Greenville, Grenada, Sunflower, Tunica, and McComb.
On Wednesday, October 5 a press conference was held at the National Press Club for the release of: “Discipline Policies, Successful Schools, and Racial Justice.” The report, authored by Daniel J. Losen and published by the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado, analyzed data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and found that more than 28 percent of Black middle school boys had been suspended at least once, compared with 10 percent of white males nationwide. For girls, it was 18 percent of Black students, compared with 4 percent of white students. Featured speakers included students and parents involved in the National Week of Action. Edward Ward, a youth organizer with Blocks Together from Chicago, Illinois, and Wanda Parker, a parent from Greenville, Mississippi whose son was suspended from school for 45-days for “possession of a cell-phone on school grounds”, spoke about their personal experiences with school pushout and their work to introduce restorative practices as alternatives to zero-tolerance policies in their local schools.
In New York City, over 100 students, parents, teachers and community members gathered at City Hall Park on Tuesday, October 4 to demand an end to the harsh and discriminatory discipline practices and lock-down conditions in many of the city’s public schools. Students then marched to NYPD headquarters at One Police Plaza to deliver their demand that Police Commissioner Ray Kelly stop the over-policing of schools and put an end to student arrests for school discipline matters.
Abeer Ahmed, a 17-year old student at Queens Collegiate High School and a member of Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM) spoke at the City Hall action, asking, “What is the definition of a school? An institution where youth go to obtain an education, a place where us young people go to learn…right? But how are we supposed to learn with all these metal detectors, school safety officers and cops in our schools?”
Today and later this week additional events and actions are being held in the following cities: Fresno, Los Angeles, Oakland and Sacramento, CA; Denver, CO; Atlanta, GA; Chicago, IL; Doddsville, Drew, Greenville, Kilmichael, McComb, Panola County and Southhaven, MS; St. Louis, MO; Raleigh, NC; New York, NY; and Philadelphia, PA.
The Dignity in Schools Campaign is a coalition of youth, parents, educators, civil rights organizations, and social justice advocates working to ensure the human right of every child to a quality education and to be treated with dignity. The DSC challenges the systemic problem of “push out” and promotes local and national alternatives to a culture of zero-tolerance, punishment and removal in our nation’s schools.
The National Week of Action brings together organizations and individuals from 14 states and Washington, DC to call for an end to zero tolerance policies, for the implementation of positive approaches to discipline like restorative justice practices and positive behavior supports in place of solely relying on suspensions and expulsions, and for the passage of federal legislation that promotes positive school climates.
Interviews with organizers, photos, and video footage of events are available upon request.
For more information about the National Week of Action and the Dignity in Schools Campaign, please visit - http://www.dignityinschools.org