Addressing Minnesota Racial Discipline Disparities in Education: Youth Voices

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1 MMEP SOLUTIONS NOT SUSPENSIONS CAMPAGIN Addressing Minnesota Racial Discipline Disparities in Education: Youth Voices Nationwide, research and policy analysis has been conducted to include discipline in the discussion of eliminating racial disparities in education. In Minnesota, MMEP has been the leader in collecting research and data around this issue, and has made central, the engagement of community and youth voices in the strategy to eliminate racial discipline disparities in MN schools. The MMEP Solutions Not Suspensions Campaign is advocating for policies and practices to close Minnesota s discipline gap by: As As all all groups pursue excellence, a a compelling goal goal for for racial racial equity equity is that is lagging that lagging groups groups should should rise faster rise until faster race and until ethnicity race and cease ethnicity to be predictors cease be of grades, predictors test scores, of grades, or any test other scores, measure or of academic any other skill measure or knowledge of academic skill or knowledge [name] Ferguson, 2007 Ronald Ferguson, 2007 With this understanding and as a result of With this process, this understanding the MMEP Solutions and as a Not Suspensions result of this Campaign process, the has MMEP the ultimate goals Solutions of: Not Suspensions Campaign has the ultimate goals of: n Accelerating the achievement of African n American Accelerating young the men achievement in Minnesota of schools. African American young men in Minnesota schools. ndeveloping school-community n relationships Developing that school-community foster dignity and respect relationships by and for that students. foster dignity and respect by and for students. n Researching Promising Policies and Practices to Close Discipline Gaps in Schools What do promising practices look like nationwide? MMEP has been collecting national and local data and research around discipline rates and reform efforts that decrease the amount of students being suspended from schools, as well as powerful practices that empower students and end the disproportionate push out of students of color, specifically, African American young men. n Identifying Coalition Members that Support Policy and Practice Changes in MN Schools Who supports a change for discipline in Minnesota Schools? MMEP has built an e-network of over 200 concerned educators and community members receiving information about this campaign and ways to act! Additionally, we have commitments from over 20 researchers and allies that to gather the best practices of addressing discipline gaps in education and push an agenda to close gaps! n Building a Movement around Change with Community and Youth Input Gathering community and student input for change. MMEP has been actively engaging a core group of allies to form a policy team consisting of community leaders, non-profit representatives, educators, parents and students to discuss this issue and collectively come up with recommendations for discipline policy and practice reform. n Advocating for Implementation of New Student and Community Supported Policies and Practices MMEP has been meeting with schools districts to discuss issues of disproportionate discipline rates and present research findings. We will be looking to move forward with Minnesota school districts to assist in the re-crafting of policies, implementation of solution based programming, and developing accountability measures. MMEP MINNESOTA MINNORITY EDUCATION PARTNERSHIP For more information call or visit mmep.org.

2 MMEP Over 75 students of color gathered for a day of empowerment, understanding, and action. Youth Summit Youth Voices Matter A strong example of this is the National Dignity in Schools Campaign, a campaign challenging the systemic problem of pushout in our nation s schools. The Dignity in School s Annual National Week of Action on School Pushout features students across the nation speaking to crowds of community members, administrators, and state legislatures about the negative impacts of harsh school discipline policies and the disproportionate pushout of students of color. Similarly in Minnesota, on Saturday, May 11, 2013, over 75 students of color filled the Auditorium at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs to begin a day of empowerment, understanding, and action. Kicking the day off with honest information and statistics about the discipline gap and the school-to-prison pipeline, students were both powerfully informewd by data showing that students of color have the deck stacked against them (Nekima Levy-Pounds) when it comes to the juvenile justice system and treatment in schools. Leonel Dorvil gave an explanation of when and how the school system became very similar to the juvenile justice system by using language like zero-tolerance. He also informed students of the initiatives that Hennepin County juvenile corrections is taking to help dismantle the school-toprison pipeline. The second half of the day opened up the floor for youth voices. Two breakout sessions hosted by youth from the Minneapolis Youth Congress and youth Dreamers that helped to push the Dream Act legislation in Minnesota, allowed youth to express their ideas, experiences, and opinions about school discipline in their schools. After lunch and an empowering keynote address from Anthony Galloway, all students sat down together and helped to envision what changes need to happen to make school communities more empowering and make discipline fair to both students and teachers. The following key survey results emerged from the summit: Students who attended the summit n 100% believed that students are disciplined differently based on the color of their skin. n 100% thought students miss too much school time due to suspensions n 100% thought that there are better ways, than suspensions, to handle behavior issues At the end of the summit n 85% reported a better understanding of how youth can affect change n 85% said they felt empowered to speak up for themselves n 90% felt that their voice matters and can make a difference At the end of the summit, 23 youth participants signed on to join the Solutions Not Suspensions Campaign and present recommendations. 2

3 What Youth have to Say Recommendations Throughout the summit, brainstorming breakout sessions and discussions allowed for students to voice their opinions, suggestions, and feelings about ways to improve school culture and reform discipline policies. From these discussions emerged 5 major themes that youth felt would create a more empowering and equitable school community. 1. Students Recommend Revising the Role of Police in Schools Having police in schools makes us feel like criminals. We already have hall monitors and principals that can recognize guns and can call police when they need to be called. Youth Congress Breakout Session, Contrary to the expressed purpose, students reported the current use of police in schools as threatening and intimidating, ultimately, making students feel unsafe and uncomfortable in school. Police are trained to enforce law, not to enforce school rules, or problem solve. Students would like to clarify the role of police in schools as entities called on ONLY in cases of violence, and make clear the need for staff and police to use preventative, alternative measures to suspensions, ticketing, and arrests in schools. In Denver, CO, Denver Public Schools and Denver Police Department addressed this issue by rewriting the Intergovernmental Agreement. In 2012, students and activists from the community based organization, Padres y Jovenes Unidos, placed pressure on Denver Public Schools and the Denver Police Department to rewrite their contract with student representation at the negotiating table to ensure that the new contract accurately reflected student and community voice. Through that process, students were able to ensure that language limiting the use of tickets, referrals and arrests were included, and that any disciplinary issues not threatening school safety were to be handled in school using the DPS new discipline policy, that had restorative justice and in-school solutions at its core (Local Accountability: Pushing Denver Public Schools Toward Full Policy Implementation). 2. Students Recommend Increasing the Diversity and Cultural Competency of Teachers and Staff I feel like White teachers react better to White students Dreamers Breakout session, Students feel that unequal distribution of discipline referrals and actions may be a result of racial stereotypes and stigma that exist in society, and are played out in teacher biases when deciding who and how to discipline. Additionally, several students stated that a more diverse staff, reflective of the student population, may help to enhance student/teacher understanding and decrease the racial discipline gap. Chicago Public Schools adopted a Disposition Screening to Help Select Teachers As cited in an article in education weekly. The vast majority of the teaching force is white women who don t know the communities, so there s a potential cultural mismatch or a misreading [of students behavior] that happens early on and it unravels from there, says Vicki Chou, dean of the College of Education at UIC. Chicago Public Schools adopted a disposition screening for candidates interested in teaching in their schools. This screening is based on the idea that successful teachers in urban schools need certain traits. The disposition screening was developed and catered to Chicago Public Schools using a collaborative effort of staff from Polaris TeacherFit and high performing, award-winning teachers and principals from Chicago Public Schools. The screening is used to gauge a teacher s planning ability, how they related to their students, persistence, and a few other traits by asking how teachers would respond to certain scenarios and includes questions about their beliefs and attitudes (Harris, 2011). 3

4 3. Students Recommend Student Participation in Creating Clear/ Transparent Discipline Policies and Procedures that Emphasis the use of Alternative Practices that Keep Students in School In the school I used to go to, the consequence was that you either got dismissed, suspended, or expelled, that was it. There was no detention or anything like that If you want us to learn, that s not a way of making an effort to teach us when they re kicking us out. Youth Congress Breakout Session, Overall, students feel that suspensions are over-issued and administered unequally to students of color. In conjunction with this issue, students also feel that suspensions are used far too often for minor offenses that do not warrant removal from school and are distributed inconsistently. Students would like to be involved in creating a CLEAR and FAIR discipline policy that identifies alternative solutions, not suspensions, to be used for minor offenses. It needs to be clear what type of responses/interventions will be used for specific misbehaviors. Along these same lines, students feel that they should be given a real chance to address and change misbehavior issues before any suspensions can be considered. Baltimore City Public Schools reformed their Code of Conduct to include a comprehensive matrix to address misbehavior and responses. To address this issue, in 2008, Baltimore City Public Schools with the help of the Open Society and Advancement Project developed a new Code of Conduct that included a detailed matrix that clearly listed SPECIFIC inappropriate and disruptive behaviors along with the levels of responses those behaviors could be met with. Responses were grouped into four levels, making clear that the lowest level indicated on the matrix must be used prior to any higher level response. Level one and two responses include: written reflections or apologies, seat change, conflict resolution, mentoring program, restorative justice strategies, detention, etc. In the five pages listing the inappropriate behaviors and responses, it makes clear that for all non-violent behaviors; level one and two responses must be used prior to any level three responses that remove the student from school. The matrix guarantees that students are given a documented chance and the support needed to correct behavior before they can be removed from school ( Baltimore City Public Schools Code of Conduct). Since the new code was implemented, the districts suspensions decreased from 16,500 in 2008, to 9,271 in the school year. Additionally, the on-time graduation rate for African American males increased by 12.4% from the to the school year (Advancement Project). 4. Students Recommend Relationship Rebuilding between Staff and Students There s usually only like one or two teachers in the whole school that students really trust. Youth Congress Breakout Session, Students feel there is a lack of trust and respect between the teachers/staff and students. There needs to be an intentional focus of staff and teachers to rebuild their relationships with all students, especially the students that they consistently send out of class and refer for misbehavior. Building these relationships will help to create a school culture that fosters understanding and conversations that help to truly get to the root of behavior issues and lessen the need for discipline referrals. Center for Inspired Teaching Issue Brief: Relationship-Based Discipline In a study conducted with 375 eighth-graders, survey results showed that students described a caring teacher as one who demonstrates democratic intervention styles, develops expectations for student behavior in light of individual differences, models a caring attitude toward their own work, and provides constructive feedback. Students were more likely to give more effort to achieve academically, and pursue pro-social responsibility in their classrooms when they felt they had caring teachers (Sweetland, 2007). In another study involving over 3,000 students, results indicated students self-reported level of responsible behavior were higher in classrooms where teachers involved students in the decision making. The study also found that students who received relationship-based discipline were more interested in their learning (Sweetland, 2007). 4

5 5. Students Recommend Thorough assessments of the Situations before Discipline is Determined Students and peers should help to decide whether a student should be suspended or not. A lot of times what teachers say happened isn t always what everyone else saw. Large Group Brainstorming Session, Students feel that they are often times suspended from school unfairly and that more research of situations and offenses need to happen prior to an out-of-school suspension. Calling non-biased witnesses that can report on the entire situation will help to ensure that the incident happened the way the referral reports. Baltimore City Public Schools increased data collection and created a monitoring team. In Baltimore, a Safety Staff team was established to hold weekly meetings to review all disciplinary action taken during the week. This allows them to identify students that are frequently being referred for misbehavior, what types of misbehavior are most common, and figure out what types of support students may needed for particular students or schools. At the same time, this team is able to monitor which teachers and staff are referring students the most and for what type of misbehavior (Brice, 2011; Baltimore City Public Schools Code of Conduct). These recommendations will constantly be used to inform the discipline policy and practices reform recommendations the MMEP Solutions Not Suspensions Campaign presents and advocates for moving forward. For more information and updates on the MMEP Solutions Not Suspensions Campaign, please visit the Minnesota Minority Education Partnership website at Bibliography Brice, Jonathan, dir. NEPC Conference. Dignity in Schools Campaign, Film. 23 Jul < com/watch?v=orwdqbksata>. Ferguson, R. (2007). Toward excellence with equity: An emerging vision for closing the achievement gap. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press. Harris, S. K. (2011, March 15). Teacher Colleges Emphasizing Cultural Competence. Education Weekly. Local Accountability: Pushing Denver Public Schools Toward Full Policy Implementation. (n.d.). Retrieved July 24, 2013, from Padres & Jovenes Unidos: Project, A. (n.d.). Campaign Spotlight: Open Society- Baltimore. Retrieved from Advancement Project: Ending the Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Track: Sweetland, J. J. (2007). Inspired Issue Brief: Relationship-Based Discipline. Center for Inspired Teaching. 5

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