Education Law Center

October News: Advocates discuss how to improve school climate in Pittsburgh; ELC's continued efforts for PA students learning English; state truancy legislation makes improvements but misses the mark
ELC attorney Thena Robinson Mock speaks at equity summit in Pittsburgh focused on supporting Black girls 
ELC served as a collaborative partner for an inaugural "Equity Summit" in Pittsburgh on October 13-14, hosted by Gwen's Girls, a community and social services organization that supports girls and young women in Allegheny County. The event brought together a diverse group of stakeholders to develop strategies to address racial disparities impacting Black girls. ELC helped shape workshops and strategy sessions focused on co-constructing transformative solutions with girls to reduce school pushout.
New report on inequities affecting Black girls in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County 
ELC provided key data and policy analysis for a newly released report, " Inequities Affecting Black Girls in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County." The report, commissioned by the FISA Foundation and Heinz Endowments, provides a data snapshot of barriers that impede the well-being and academic success of girls in five key areas: poverty, education, juvenile justice, violence, and child welfare. ELC contributed to the overall framing of the report and provided important school discipline data and policy analysis to assess disparities and support the development of community-informed policy solutions. 
Image: Melanie Bavaria, Philadelphia Public School Notebook
ELC highlights needs of English Language Learners in special issue of the Philadelphia Public School Notebook
ELC senior staff attorney Maura McInerney was quoted in two articles in the Philadelphia Public School Notebook.  In "All Over the Map," the Notebook covers how the School District of Philadelphia manages learning for the more than 1 in 10 students learning English in the city's public schools.  Maura states that Philadelphia "needs to adopt district-wide policies ensuring that all students are overcoming language barriers and specifically look at instruction."
In "English learners caught in competition for funding," Maura explains how there exists limited funding - and limited state guidance - to help English Language Learners in Pennsylvania: "Our state laws do very little in terms of specific directives and requirements ... the numbers of teachers or caseload, the number of content teachers, or the training or instruction hours required."
"I still want to learn": ELC's history of pushing for the rights of students learning English
In last week's  Legal Intelligencer, ELC attorneys Kristina Moon and Maura McInerney reviewed ELC's work for students learning English, including the current case Issa v. School District of Lancaster, brought by ELC, the ACLU of Pennsylvania, and Pepper Hamilton LLP. The case challenges the district's practice of requiring older immigrant English language learners to attend an alternative accelerated school and refusing to allow them access to their regular neighborhood high school. 
ELC: New truancy legislation makes some improvements but misses the mark 
Pennsylvania's newly-enacted truancy legislation represents a significant overhaul of the state's truancy laws. The legislation contains some positive reforms, including requiring schools to convene individualized student and parent conferences to address the root causes of truancy at the school level before referring matters to truancy courts. However, the new law may harm vulnerable students and parents by imposing significant fines and jail time for unpaid fines. The new law increases the amount a student or parent may be fined for truancy, which is a significant departure from both evidence-based approaches and the impetus for the legislation-the death of a poor mother in a Berks County jail while incarcerated for failing to pay fines related to her children's truancy. Alex Dutton, ELC attorney and Independence Foundation Public Interest Law Fellow, said: "Despite important reforms that should be celebrated, this legislation fails to address the most inequitable aspects of Pennsylvania's truancy law, leaving poor families exposed to excessive fines and jail that are proven not to reduce truancy." 
 
ELC will work closely with local districts and law enforcement to ensure the law is applied according to its purpose: preventing and eliminating truancy, reducing collateral consequences of convictions on youth, and maintaining stable and healthy families.
ELC helps create new special education toolkit - a resource for youth in foster care, juvenile justice system 
ELC, along with our partners at Juvenile Law Center and Disability Rights Pennsylvania, produced a new toolkit, "Developing an IEP Transition Plan." This resource explains the rights of students under federal law and includes exercises for children and advocates to prepare for IEP planning meetings. The toolkit was created primarily for transition-age youth and their advocates in the foster care or juvenile justice systems but may be useful to any student receiving special education.
Suspensions for wearing a hoodie? Clothing ban temporarily lifted in Pittsburgh-area district
As covered by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, ELC weighed in on the Penn Hills School District's decision to temporarily lift its ban on hoodies in class after it led to more than 40 suspensions. ELC attorney Thena Robinson Mock commented that "s chool districts must think critically about the racial impact of policies that are proposed and ultimately implemented." Alongside school codes of conduct, subjective and arbitrary dress code policies contribute to the school to prison pipeline that disproportionately pushes students of color and students with disabilities out of school and into the juvenile justice system. 
ELC joins Dignity in Schools Campaign "Week of Action" to address school pushout 
ELC partnered with Pittsburgh-based community organizations Education Rights Network and One Pittsburgh for the Dignity in Schools Campaign's annual "Week of Action," a series of events that engages over 100 organizations in more than 40 cities and raises awareness around ending school pushout and improving school climate. ELC joined panelists for a discussion about school climate and pushout in Allegheny County.
ELC fellow featured 
ELC's own Roderick Cook was featured in the Philly Fellows "Meet the Fellows" blog series this month. Roderick serves as  project coordinator for our Homeless Education Advocacy Program in our Philadelphia office, and acts as a liaison between ELC, youth experiencing homelessness, and a number of the city's youth-serving shelters. Learn more about Roderick and this critical work on the Philly Fellows website. 
Join the Campaign for Fair Education Funding
Alongside 50 organizations across Pennsylvania, Education Law Center is a leading member of the Campaign for Fair Education Funding. Click below to read more about our efforts to ensure that every student has access to a quality education no matter where he or she lives.
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