Campaign Aims to Keep Students in, Not ‘Push’ them Out
Chase Niesner | October 1, 2013
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What many call the “drop out crisis,” the Dignity in Schools Campaign is calling the “push out crisis.”
The nationwide coalition of students and activists is undertaking a National Week of Action, and various rallies, press conferences, even art installations will be held across Los Angeles this week to address what the group sees as the over-reliance on law enforcement in the nation’s public schools.
The group is demanding positive approaches to addressing behavior problems instead of the zero tolerance discipline policies and other punitive practices that tend to push students out of school for good, fueling a “school-to-prison” pipeline.
According to a Dignity in Schools press release, California public schools issue more than 700,000 suspensions annually and the state maintains the highest dropout rate in the nation.
Today, the Inglewood-based Dignity in Schools member organzation Youth Justice Coalition is conducting a survey of students’ transportation struggles to and from school, with a special emphasis given to their experiences with law enforcement on public transportation.
In light of recent reports of a California truancy “crisis,” organization spokeswoman Zoë Rawson said she hopes the survey will eventually lead to a free-student bus pass to address some of the attendance issues facing the city’s schools. According to Rawson, fare evasion tickets are given at the highest rate, representing 27 percent of all tickets given to the city’s youth.
On Thursday, the campaign will host a showcase of alternative restorative justice models at FREE L.A. High School in Inglewood and at Augustus Hawkins High School in south Los Angeles. The site tours of both schools will seek to reframe the question of school safety without campus police or security.
“Restorative or transformative justice at the FREE LA School attempts to restore a safe school environment and facilitate what we call ‘restorative circles,'” Rawson told LA School Report. “Ultimately these circles of communication will allow the actors to better understand their own situation and find their own solutions amongst their teachers and peers within the school setting.”
The Dignity in Schools L.A. campaign also includes the ACLU of Southern California, the Children’s Defense Fund-California, and the labor/Community Strategy Center’s Community Rights Campaign.