Around the country school systems have criminalized truancy, encouraging their counties to penalize students that miss too many days of school with fines, court fees, and in some cases even charging them, their parents, or their guardians with misdemeanors and pursuing jail time. These punishments often put an already struggling low-income family in an even deeper economic hole. Additionally, many school systems are attempting to remedy their student’s minor behavioral issues with out-of-school suspensions. This removal from the classroom causes students to miss out on valuable instructional time, resulting in students lagging behind their classmates due to a lack of understanding for the materials covered during their suspensions. Furthermore, a substantial amount of these suspensions are being sought for even the most inconsequential of incidents and school infractions. However, these truancy punishments and out-of-school suspensions are being pursued and enforced disproportionately against low-income and Black children with absolutely no regard for the long-term consequences of these actions.
The disproportionate enforcement of harsh disciplinary measures against low-income and Black youth is ground zero for what has been called the “school-to-prison pipeline.” The ACLU defines the school-to-prison pipeline as ”…policies and practices that push our nation’s schoolchildren, especially our most at-risk children, out of classrooms and into the juvenile and criminal justice system. This pipeline reflects the prioritization of incarceration over education.” In order to reverse this trend, school systems must come to the realization that truancy and behavioral issues can be symptoms of more serious problems, rather than simple rebelliousness. In addition to being signs of a larger problem, much of this behavior is often age-appropriate, but deemed punishable due to racial discrimination. Read more
On September 13, 2013, New York Law School had the pleasure of hosting a few of the most progressive civil rights lawyers and social justice advocates at our Racial Justice Symposium, Remembering the Dream, Renewing the Dream. We were also proud to host several of the Civil Rights Movement’s pioneers, including Clarence Jones, Dr. King’s lawyer, adviser and one of our featured panelists. During the “Fierce Urgency of Now” panel, Jones discussed the March on Washington, its history and how Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech came to be. Mr. Jones also discussed some of the statistics and issues facing minorities today, such as the correlation between single-parent homes and poverty rates for African-Americans. The discussions of the day concentrated on the challenges social justice advocates face in modern society and the strategies they can utilize to counteract issues such as apathy within the community.
The phrase “school-to-prison-pipeline” has been heard frequently around the country over the past several years as schools have shifted towards implementation of zero tolerance policies that criminalize student behavior, resulting in students entering the criminal justice system for offenses that would once have warranted a trip to the principal’s office, after-school detention, or a meeting with parents to discuss the behavior. Even more disturbing is the fact that African-American, Latino, LGBT and disabled students are disproportionately impacted by these policies. The school-to-prison-pipeline is exactly what it sounds like; a pipeline through which students are pushed out of schools and into the criminal justice system due to a national trend in schools criminalizing minor infractions and handing over control of school discipline to law enforcement. Instead of counseling or educational assistance, students are criminally punished for minor infractions and introduced to the juvenile justice system at an early age, increasing the likelihood that they will return to the system in the future. Read more
On November 15, 2012 the Office for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education launched its investigation into the admissions test for New York City’s Specialized High Schools, in response to the complaint filed by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in September of 2012 (read more in our R2J Post of November 28, 2012). Considering the ahistorical and decontextualized approach the Supreme Court has taken when considering school segregation under the Equal Protection Clause, I can only hope that the Office of Civil Rights is able to awaken what U.S. Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, Thomas Perez, has called the “sleeping giant”—Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Read more
In a move that is drawing heavy criticism from parents, educators, school board members, and community advocates, Florida’s State Board of Education just approved a plan that sets educational achievement standards at different levels based on race. Under this new plan, white and Asian students are held to a higher standard than black and Hispanic students, with the expectation that 88% of white students and 90% of Asian students will be reading at grade level by 2018, while only 74% of black students and 81% of Hispanic students are expected to be reach that same goal. The goals for math proficiency are similar, with the highest targets set for white and Asian students and the lowest set for Hispanic and black students. Read more
On September 29, 2012, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (“LDF”) filed a complaint against the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) and New York State Department of Education (NYSDOE), alleging that the admissions process for New York City’s Specialized High Schools (SHS’s) causes unjustified racially disparate impact, and is therefore in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The admissions process is determined solely by a student’s rank-order score on a multiple-choice exam called the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT). LDF’s complaint alleges that this admissions process results in many qualified, high-potential students being denied access to the experiences that New York City’s Specialized High Schools offer. Read more
Professor Deborah Archer’s blog post, “The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations: Why Affirmative Action Still Matters” is now featured in The Huffington Post. In her post, Professor Archer explores the importance of race-conscious university admissions programs like those currently under review by the Supreme Court in Fisher v. University of Texas. She also exposes the flawed reasoning underlying conservative attacks on affirmative action. Read the complete post here.
Today, the New York Law School Racial Justice Project filed an amicus curiae brief in Fisher v. The University of Texas at Austin, a case the U.S. Supreme Court will hear in October. The case is a challenge to UT Austin’s consideration of race as a factor in undergraduate admissions and will be the first time the Court addresses affirmative action in higher education since Grutter v. Bollinger in 2003. Read more