This Week in Education Organizing - October 19, 2018

 

New Jersey Education Commissioner Turning Down Charter Applications

For the first time in a decade, New Jersey education officials seem to be imposing a so-far informal moratorium on new charter school openings in the state.

Just one new charter school is scheduled to open next year, out of 13 applications that were submitted to the NJ Department of Education, the sole charter authorizer in the state.

NJ Governor Phil Murphy, who succeeded charter school supporter Chris Christie in 2018, has proposed a “pause” in charter expansion across the state, while a review is conducted of the state’s law and accountability measures. Although no specific review process has been announced, the administration has begun hearing from stakeholders on all sides, according to an article in the online NJ Spotlight.

Organized Parents and Students Call for Investment / Divestment in Pittsburgh

On October 1, The Pittsburgh School Police gave a presentation to the school board outlining their reasons for wanting to carry weapons on school campuses. On October 22, members of the Education Rights Network and One PA will tell the school board “absolutely NOT!!”

The groups are calling on the district to DIVEST from the criminalization of students and INVEST in the schools all students deserve.

School police officers in Pittsburgh have the right to arrest students, but currently do not carry weapons of any kind. A proposal to allow the officers to carry guns is scheduled to be voted on October 24th.

Many on the school board are strongly opposed to the proposal: “Right now in Pittsburgh Public, there is zero percent chance of a school police officer shooting a child,” said board member Moira Kaleida earlier this month. “That changes the minute this policy changes.” (Read an article about the debate HERE).

Education Rights Network and One PA are delivering a set of demands to the board on the 22nd. They include that the board divest from the $7 million currently allocated to the district’s school safety budget, and instead invest it in youth- and parent-identified resources.  They’re asking the board to reduce school-based arrests, to keep a public database of law enforcement actions in schools, to disarm all school personnel, and to move towards becoming a Police-Free School district no later than 2021-22.

With a positive vision, the groups are also demanding sustainable Community Schools across the district, dedicated student support staff in each school, ongoing de-escalation training for all school staff and bus drivers, and funding for more counselors, social workers, and para-professionals, among other things.

Stand by for a report on the Monday action and Wednesday vote in next week’s NewsBlast!!

Chicago Youth Demand #PoliceFreeSchools

On September 13th, organized students from across the city came together to demand that Chicago Public Schools replace school police with counselors and restorative justice.

“In Chicago there is a lot of trauma connected to police. Walking into these schools makes us feel unwanted, like the police are protecting the school from us. We get yelled at, watched, harassed, arrested, put into gang databases and put in danger of deportation," said Citlai, a senior in Chicago Public Schools.

Over 200 police officers operate in 74 schools, primarily in black and brown neighborhoods in Chicago. But neither the Chicago Police Department nor Chicago Public Schools can produce an up-to-date roster of the officers. This is just one finding in the Office of Inspector General (OIG) report on the School Resource Officer (SRO) program that documents a complete lack of accountability, oversight, and regulation.

In addition to the OIG report, a 2017 report from The Shriver Center, Handcuffs in Hallways found over $2 million in settlement payments from 2012-2016 for instances involving SROs, and that from 2013 - 2014, 31% of student arrests were of students with disabilities.

The findings of the OIG report further confirm that the placement of police officers in CPS is jeopardizing the safety, education and civil rights of students. Students, parents and teachers have no faith in the unelected Board of Education and demand that an elected, and representative school board determine the future of the SRO program. 

 At the press conference, students called on Chicago Public Schools to: 

1. Suspend the use of police officers in schools until a full audit by the OIG is completed that includes quantitative and qualitative data on all data on student arrests, use of force, stops, searches, interrogations and sharing of student information.

 2. Replace police officers stationed in schools them with additional counselors and social workers to ensure that schools are able to use restorative approaches to conflict.

A broad coalition of youth-led and community-based organizations is working together towards Police Free Schools. They include the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, Assata’s Daughters, STOP Chicago, Arab American Action Network, Enlace Chicago, Asian American's Advancing Justice, and the Chicago Teachers Union. 

Mackenzie, a youth leader with the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council said, " Seeing them [SROs] in my school made me feel the same way as when I see them on the streets. Uneasy. CPS will take away our music classes and after-school programs if it means keeping officers and security to our building. This goes beyond school-to-prison pipeline. By having police in schools they have created a prison-to-prison pipeline."

New Toolkit – “Organizing to Combat the School-to-Prison-Pipeline"

The Dignity in Schools Campaign and Professor Mark Warren at the University of Massachusetts Boston are excited to announce the release of a new online toolkit, “Organizing to Combat the School-to-Prison-Pipeline.” This toolkit contains over 130 resources produced by students, parents, advocates and organizations, each created to assist new, and more established community groups, with their organizing efforts against the school-to-prison pipeline in their local communities.

This toolkit includes resources to assist groups to:  build a base of parent, youth and community participants, develop leadership from those most affected by school pushout, conduct participatory action research, educate members about how the school-to-prison pipeline operates, develop campaign strategies for policy change, and create positive and restorative alternatives to punitive school discipline practices. 

The toolkit is located on the Dignity in Schools website (www.dignityinschools.org/toolkits/stpp) with resources available for access and download at no cost to users.  

For more information, see: http://dignityinschools.org/toolkit-on-organizing-to-combat-the-school-to-prison-pipeline-out-now/



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