Michelle Alexander Endorses FFLIC Campaign to end Suspensions

Michelle Alexander, legal scholar and best-selling author of The New Jim Crow, endorses the campaign by Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children (FFLIC) to end unnecessary suspensions.

New Orleans Parent Group Takes Part in National Week of Action on School Push-out Calls for an End to Out-of-School Suspensions for Minor Offenses, and Launches the Dignity in Schools – New Orleans Chapter

New Orleans, LA – On Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013, Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children (FFLIC) will launch a New Orleans Chapter of the Dignity in Schools Campaign which will build their capacity and alliance with other local groups to call on local school districts (RSD Direct Run, RSD Charters, OPSB, and OPSB Charters) and government officials to end out-of-school suspensions for minor offenses and focus on implementing positive discipline policies that keep our young people in school.

“I strongly support Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children (FFLIC) as they launch the New Orleans Chapter of Dignity in Schools. They’re calling on local school districts and governmental officials to end out-of-school suspensions for minor infractions and to focus on implementing compassionate solutions that work”, said Michelle Alexander, Esq. “It is absolutely essential that we shift away from a purely punitive, zero tolerance approach to dealing with our young people and employ more constructive and restorative practices instead. Young people must be held accountable for normal adolescent behavior like “willful disobedience,” but they should not be forced out of school — a practice that only contributes to high dropout rates, widens the achievement gap, and feeds the school-to-prison pipeline.”

The launched organized by FFLIC takes place in the context of the Dignity in Schools Campaign’s 4th Annual National Week of Action on School Pushout. During the week of September 28 – October 5 events are being held in over 42 cities across 24 states to demand the implementation of positive approaches to school discipline like restorative justice practices and positive behavior supports, and to call for a nationwide moratorium on out-of-school suspensions.

“We know that there are positive alternatives to suspension that work. We need to invest more in teacher training, counselors and restorative justice practices” said Gina Womack, FFLIC’s Executive Director. We want to keep children in school and on a path to graduation instead of being criminalized and pushed into the streets, low-paying jobs, and prison.”

This year’s National Week of Action on School Pushout incorporates the “Solutions Not Suspensions” initiative (http://stopsuspensions.org), a joint effort between the Dignity in Schools Campaign and Opportunity to Learn Campaign that calls for a nationwide moratorium on out-of-school suspensions, and the implementation of the DSC’s Model Code on Education and Dignity (http://dignityinschools.org/our-work/model-school-code) which lays out detailed policies, practices and implementation guidelines for transforming school climate and discipline models to eliminate the overuse of zero tolerance policies.

School zero tolerance policies were originally intended to apply to the most serious cases such as assaults and possession of drugs and weapons. However, according to the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana’s Suspensions Matter “in reality, 95% of out-of-school suspensions are for non-violent, minor disruptions such as tardiness, disrespect, or broadly defined “willful disobedience.” Due to zero tolerance policies, Louisiana’s average for out-of-school suspensions is 30% higher than the national average”.

Out-of school suspension rates still remain extremely high in RSD direct-run schools at over twice the rate of out-of-school suspensions statewide in Louisiana. Over the 2010 – 2012 school years, students in RSD direct-run schools have missed 18,677 school days as a result of out-of-school suspension.

While the average length of out-of-school suspension is 3 days:
• In 2010-2011, there were 823 out-of-school suspensions that were one to two weeks long; and
• In 2011-2012, there were 393 out-of-school suspensions that were one to two weeks long.
(Data provided by: the Recovery School District)

This is why we need a moratorium on out of school suspensions for minor offenses and to push for the use of positive and effective alternatives outlined in the Model Code on Education and Dignity.

Also on this same Wednesday FFLIC and JJPL will participate as community resources after lecture and book signing, The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander. FFLIC will provide resources on the school to prison pipeline, the DSC model code and solutions to suspensions. JJPL will distribute information from their Suspensions Matter series which details the over-reliance on out of school suspensions in New Orleans 6:00 – 9:00 @ Tulane University Dixon Hall.

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