Success Stories

State by state, county by county, school districts are ending the use of overly harsh discipline practices. 

Check out some of the most recent victories below:

Los Angeles Unified School District Passes Ground-Breaking Student Bill of Rights

The Labor/Community Strategy Center in partnership with the Brothers, Sons, Selves Coalition had a major youth-led victory when the Los Angeles Unified School District passed the School Climate Bill of Rights. The new policy places an unprecedented ban on suspensions for “willful defiance,” a tool that has contributed to huge racial disparities in school discipline. The offense accounted for nearly half of the suspensions in California in the 2011-2012 school year. The ban, a product of a seven year Community Rights Campaign, is the first to be passed in any California school district. Prior to the School Climate Bill of Rights, the school district had maintained a zero tolerance policy for students who defied any school administrator or teacher’s direction. This included suspensions for harmless offenses such as wearing baggy pants or refusing to turn off a cellphone. Under the new policy, teachers and administrators will be required to keep the student on campus and utilize alternative disciplinary measures to deal with the problem.

Along with guaranteeing the implementation of restorative justice programs, The School Climate Bill of Rights also limits the role of police officers in school discipline. The Bill recognizes that students have a right to a safe learning environment that minimizes law enforcement involvement in school discipline. The District will evaluate current school police policies, practices, and trainings, and schools will begin using a non-criminal enforcement model of discipline as opposed to arrest-driven enforcement.

Youth leaders and the Los Angeles Unified School Board have taken a momentous step in ensuring that students of color are not being pushed out of school and into the juvenile justice system. However, this effort alone will not solve Los Angeles’s problem of racial inequities in its schools. The Labor/Community Strategy Center hopes that the change in policy will help them advance toward a plan that will curtail racially biased arrests and ticketing on campuses.

Advancement Project is proud to work with organizers and youth leaders from the Labor/Community Strategy Center’s Community Rights Campaign to put on ActionCamp, where youth and community leaders from across the country come together to share and learn about this campaign and other community led victories.

Photo credit: Community Rights Campaign Facebook page

By Sneha Shah

Youth Leaders Score Victory For Common Sense Discipline In Philadelphia

After years of demanding an end to zero tolerance in schools, youth leaders in Philadelphia won a major victory when the School Reform Commission unanimously passed a new Code of Student Conduct. Under the new code, students can no longer be suspended out-of-school for minor infractions such as disrupting class, using profanity, skipping class and violating the dress code. It moves away from the use of broad discipline categories and now includes five levels of progressive interventions and consequences that are appropriate for specific acts of misconduct.  Out-of-school suspensions are now only to be given out as a "last resort and only when in-school interventions and consequences are insufficient." The District pledged to respect all members of the school community and acknowledged its role in creating a positive school climate by using a discipline philosophy that "help students reconnect to their school community” and establishing "common sense expectations" for student behavior.

Just before the final vote, Saeda Washington, a recent graduate and current staff member of Youth United for Change, testified about being barred from taking a senior picture in a tuxedo and secured one final change to the code. The new Code will now include a provision protecting gender non-conforming students from discrimination based on the dress code.

In early 2011, YUC and Advancement Project released a joint report exposing the impact harsh and exclusionary discipline policies had on school climate, academic achievement, and school safety. Youth leaders and allies from YUC, Philadelphia Student Union, Education Law Center and the Juvenile Law Center, among others, have not relented in their fight to change these policies.

While there is much to celebrate in Philadelphia, there is still a need for further reform. Policy changes have not curtailed the use of police to deal with the same minor misbehavior the District agrees shouldn't even warrant a suspension. The new Code of Student Conduct still relies on a woefully out of date Memorandum of Understanding and Reporting Protocol between police and schools that allows police virtually unfettered ability to arrest students.

Colorado Legislature Promotes Common Sense Discipline in Schools

Padres & Jóvenes Unidos and Advancement Project Celebrate Major Victory against School-to-Jail Track

Padres & Jóvenes Unidos, in partnership with Advancement Project, recently achieved a landmark legislative victory against the over-criminalization of youth and the misuse of harsh, zero-tolerance school discipline. The bill, which was initiated and heavily influenced by the youth-led Books Not Bars Campaign of Jóvenes Unidos, passed the Colorado legislature and was signed into law by the Governor in late May. It represents a major advance in the nationwide effort to achieve common-sense school discipline that supports academic achievement.

Among the highlights of the bill are the following:

  1. It recognizes that “the use of inflexible ‘zero tolerance’ policies as a means of addressing disciplinary policies in schools has resulted in unnecessary expulsions, out-of-school suspensions, and referrals to law enforcement agencies,” and declares that the “involvement of students in the criminal or juvenile justice systems should be avoided when addressing minor misbehavior that is typical for a student based on his or her developmental stage.”
  2. Every school district in Colorado is now required to implement “proportionate” discipline that reduces the number of out-of-school suspensions, expulsions, and referrals to law enforcement.
  3. Districts are also required to implement prevention strategies, restorative justice, peer mediation, counseling, and other approaches designed to minimize student exposure to the juvenile and criminal justice system.
  4. The bill substantially improves the collection of data around school-based arrests, tickets, and court referrals. Reported data will be disaggregated by a student’s age, gender, school, and race or ethnicity, and by offense.
  5. The training of school resource officers will be enhanced considerably.

This victory for the youth, families, and communities of Colorado would not have been possible without the strong support of numerous Colorado legislators, both Democrats and Republicans. But it is especially noteworthy because of the instrumental role played by youth, in launching the campaign, guiding the strategy, leading the advocacy, and educating the public on the urgent need to implement a smarter approach to school discipline. Because of their efforts, Colorado has now established itself as a national leader in the effort to achieve more just and fair disciplinary practices, and end the over-criminalization and pushout of youth.

A link to the bill can be found here (beginning at Section 21).

School Discipline Activists Gather at ActionCamps

Advancement Project hosts four Regional School-to-Prison Pipeline ActionCamps throughout 2012. Already, over 300 activists, organizers, and advocates have already participated in convenings in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Raleigh, NC. Participants train in organizing and communications and share their experiences working to change extreme discipline policies.





Florida Youth Share Experience with School-to-Prison Pipeline

Advancement Project and Power U Center for Social Change are proud to announce the release of this video documenting the school discipline crisis in the State of Florida. We hope this video serves as a conversation starter in the efforts to dismantle the School-to-Prison Pipeline, push for common sense discipline and ensure that every student receives a high quality education.
Advancement Project has worked to address the School-to-Prison Pipeline in Florida since 2005. Collaborating with Power U and the Florida State Conference of the NAACP, we have achieved major progress in Miami and statewide including a 2009 state law that sought to address the worst of the state’s zero-tolerance possibility. Unfortunately, Florida continues to arrest, suspend, and expel students at high rates as detailed in our report, “Still Haven’t Shut Off the School-To-Prison Pipeline: Evaluating the Impact of Florida’s New Zero-Tolerance Law"

Maryland Bans Zero-Tolerance Discipline Policies in School

Momentum to dismantle the School-to-Prison Pipeline continues to build as the state of Maryland has acted to ban Zero tolerance policies. As the Associated Press reports:

"Maryland education officials have also approved changes to the state's discipline policy that are meant to cut back on suspensions and expulsions.The State Board of Education approved the new regulations amid a national debate about whether too many students are suspended or expelled for offenses that could be handled in other ways. Zero-tolerance discipline policies with automatic consequences will be banned under the regulations. Schools will now be required to adopt a rehabilitative approach to discipline, and suspensions and expulsions are referred to as a last result. The state will also require school systems to track data to ensure that minority and special education students don't receive harsher punishment and to eliminate any such disparities. A final vote on the policy is set for next month.”

Advancement Project has worked with Maryland groups including Open society Institute-Baltimore to improve school discipline policies in MD. In spring 2007, at the request of the Open Society Institute-Baltimore and a Baltimore City Public Schools (BCPSS) school safety committee, Advancement Project served as consultants in revising the district’s student code of conduct. After analyzing school discipline data and relevant laws and policies for the committee, we helped draft a new policy that emphasized prevention measures and effective intervention that are designed to limit the use of out-of-school suspensions, expulsions, and school-based arrests. In just the first year, the number of out-of-school suspensions dropped by 26%.

Judith Browne Dianis Speaks on the School-to-Prison Pipeline

 In this compelling video, Advancement Project Co-Director Judith Browne Dianis shares the story of Ja’iesha Scott, a Florida kindergartner arrested in school for throwing a temper tantrum.

Chicago Schools Reduce Suspensions with New Code of Conduct

On June 27th, the Chicago Board of Education approved a new Student Code of Conduct that reduces suspensions in Chicago Public Schools. Most notably, the new Code of Conduct eliminates the mandatory two-week suspensions for minor offenses.  Advancement Project’ local Partner, Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE), reports:

“This is a huge victory for our campaign for safe and supportive schools. Last year, students lost over 300,000 days of instruction last year due to school discipline. Our victory means that students--particularly the Black, Latino and special education students who disproportionately receive extended suspensions--will no longer be cut off from school for weeks at a time.

VOYCE student leaders made their voices and experiences a central part of the debate leading up to the Board of Education vote. Last week, dozens of us rallied outside the Mayor's office to present our model Code of Conduct to his staff, and then delivered our model code to the Board of Education members at their offices.”

Read more from VOYCE here.

Despite this progress, much more can be done to decrease arrests, suspensions and fines in publically-funded Chicago Schools. Advancement Project continues to work closely with our partners to promote common sense discipline policies for Chicago students.

Related Links:

Read the new Code of Conduct

Read the CPS summary