School Discipline Reform Victories!
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April 18, 2013
Progress for CA School Discipline Reform Bill AB420 Restricting Use of “Willfull Defiance” Category.

Yesterday the California Assembly Education Committee unanimously voted to move forward a bill – AB42 – that would restrict the use of “willfull defiance” as justification for suspension or expulsion. New data reveals that more than half of all suspensions and a quarter of expulsions in California schools are for “willful defiance” of school authorities.  Coleman Advocates and many other youth organizing and advocacy groups have been advocating against the use of this vague category for years.  As the leading justification for suspensions, it is a cornerstone of a system of aggressive, unregulated and biased school disciplinary practices that disproportionately impact low-income African American and Latino children, depriving them of their fundamental right to education, and in many cases pushing students permanently out of school and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.

It is heartening to see that state legislators are more fully grasping the gravity of this issue and its impact on our young people. In addition to our SFUSD school discipline advocacy efforts, Coleman has educated our local community about, and sent multiple letters and emails of support for this and other related state legislative reforms. Additionally, we have represented the national Alliance for Education Justice multiple times in Washington D.C. in meetings with the Department of Justice and the Department of Education on these issues.

While AB420 has a long road ahead of it, we look forward to its passage, as well as the passage of a range of other state and federal level policies we are supporting to influence a shift in our schools away from punitive, repressive, and culturally/racially biased disciplinary practices and towards prevention-oriented, evidence-based, just and fair policies and practices that respect students’ rights to education and dignity and create an engaging climate for learning in schools.   

Click here for an informative EdSource article detailing the impact of the "willfull defiance" category, AB420 specifics, and next steps for the legislation.
* Also referenced in the above-linked article is the work of Public Counsel on this issue. Public Counsel, a probono law firm, will be honored at Coleman’s May Gala event as a Next Generation Champion.

SFUSD first district to officially support AB420

The SF Board of Education is on a Restorative Justice roll! After approving nearly $1M last week for Restorative Practices professional development, last night the Rules Committee voted to officially support AB420, making SFUSD the first district in the state, on record, to support the legislation. Special thanks to Commissioner Matt Haney for proposing this precedent-setting motion and to Commissioners Rachel Norton and Kim-Shree Maufus for making it official! We are so proud of the consistent stand the Board has been taking this year towards a more comprehensive Restorative Justice approach in SFUSD.

Coleman Successfully Advocates for Landmark Reforms to Prevent SFUSD Referrals to SFPD

SFUSD and SFPD have officially approved dramatic revisions to an MOU that will restrict police activity in schools and protect the rights of students and parents/families. The MOU will go into effect for the 2013-14 school year. Coleman staff provided crucial leadership in an intensive process to revise the previous MOU.  We participated in regular meetings and strategy sessions over a period of several months, successfully advocating for a range of dramatic changes to the MOU, geared towards preventing unnecessary student referrals to the juvenile justice system.
Coleman will continue to provide leadership to support and monitor comprehensive implementation of the new MOU. We are also developing curriculum for a series of Know Your Rights workshops we will carry out to inform students and parents of the school policy changes, and to empower them to assert their rights.

Click here to read more about the expected impacts of the new MOU, both in terms of reduced school-based arrests and in terms of transformation of school climates. 

Coleman Supports Development of New SF Juvenile Justice Diversion Program

Coleman continues to provide leadership on the District Attorney’s “Workgroup on Restorative Justice Diversion for the Juvenile Justice System”.  The DA is committed to implementing comprehensive restorative justice diversion programming in the SF juvenile system and has recruited Coleman to provide ongoing technical assistance and feedback, and ensure a genuine community voice in the development and implementation processes. Coleman designed, recruited participants to, and facilitated focus groups soliciting input and guidance from service providers, youth, and parents.

Click here to read more about the specifics of the program and next steps for implementation
IMG_20120817_175421     cflc group shot  YMAC and other Solidarity Action Project Youth Leaders                                       Members of the Coleman Families Leadership Council
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