April News: Civil Rights Data, Inquirer Op-Ed, Adultification Presentation, and more...
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New U.S. Department of Ed Data Confirms Discrimination Persists in Public Schools

Data just released by the U.S. Department of Education shows that discrimination persists in our public schools. The Civil Rights Data Collection, based on a survey of 17,337 school districts across the country, reveals that students of color and students with disabilities continue to be disproportionately pushed out of school through suspensions, restraints, and referrals to law enforcement - systematically denying them access to the education they are entitled to under the law.

During the 2015-16 school year, Black students represented 15% of the total student enrollment, but 31% of students who were referred to law enforcement or arrested. Students with disabilities, who represent only 12% of students enrolled, were 26% of those suspended.   A U.S. Government Accountability Office study in April also found Black students and students with disabilities were far more subject to suspensions.

The U.S. Department of Education acknowledges these continued disparities through its own data, yet appears ready to rescind the very guidance aimed at addressing and alleviating these inequities. ELC will continue to protect and defend the civil rights of students, as we work to dismantle the policies and practices that push students of color and students with disabilities out of school and deprive them of their right to quality public education in Pennsylvania.
Inquirer Features ELC Op-Ed on School Funding, Philanthropy

Responding to a recent controversy about a $25 million gift to Abington High School from a private donor who attached many strings, the Philadelphia Inquirer devoted the front of its Sunday Currents section on April 22 to a discussion of the role of private philanthropy in education. ELC Executive Director Deborah Gordon Klehr authored one of the pieces, which spoke to the growing pressure on schools and districts to raise private funds because state funding in Pennsylvania is so inadequate. Klehr argued that the funding gaps can only be closed effectively through a more just public policy, which is why ELC has joined with the Public Interest Law Center to sue the state over its inadequate and inequitable school funding scheme.

View the article here .

ELC Co-Hosts Presentation with Philadelphia Mayor's Office of Education on Adultification Bias Against Black Girls 

Over 100 audience members attended ELC's "Girlhood, Interrupted" event on April 9.  The event featured Dr. Jamilia J. Blake, senior fellow at the Center on Poverty & Inequality at Texas A&M University, and Professor Rebecca Epstein, executive director of the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty & Inequality, who used the time to delve deeply into the findings of their groundbreaking 2017 Georgetown Law report titled "Girlhood, Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls' Childhood." The study revealed that, beginning at age 5, Black girls are perceived to be older, less innocent, and less in need of nurturing than their White peers. Dr. Blake and Ms. Epstein discussed the impact that adultification bias has on Black girls' education and life outcomes. Audience members had an opportunity to ask questions and engage in dialogue with the presenters. ELC will be hosting a follow-up meeting with a task force of audience members who expressed interest in addressing the adultification bias in schools and communities throughout the Greater Philadelphia area.

ELC Executive Director Deborah Gordon Klehr and Staff Attorney Yvelisse B. Pelotte with featured speakers Rebecca Epstein and Dr. Jamilia J. Blake
ELC Trains Educators, Providers on Rights of Students in Foster Care

As part of the Legal Center for Foster Care and Education, ELC collaborated with Allegheny County Department of Human Services and our partners at the American Bar Association to train school personnel, lawyers, and child welfare providers on the rights of students in foster care under ESSA and other federal laws. During the dynamic three-hour training, panelists  engaged in a robust dialogue with representatives from school districts, charter schools, child-serving agencies, and dependency attorneys to promote increased collaboration and improved education outcomes for students in foster care across southwestern PA.

ELC Staff Attorney Cheryl Kleiman (far right) and other panelists.

ELC Addresses Effective Juvenile Justice Reforms Under ESSA

The Legal Center for Youth Justice and Education co-presented a national webinar on April 12 with the American Youth Policy Forum, entitled  Effective Juvenile Justice Reforms in the Era of ESSA .  ESSA, the Every Student Succeeds Act, is the federal law passed in 2015 that governs US education policy grades K-12. The webinar highlighted the Blueprint for Change: Education Success for Youth in the Juvenile Justice System and included an overview of ESSA provisions presented by   ELC's Maura McInerney as well as experts from Utah, Wyoming, and Nebraska. The webinar can be viewed here .
ELC  Attorney Testifies at Hearing on Expungement of Disciplinary Records

ELC Policy Attorney Reynelle Brown Staley testified at an April 25 policy hearing before the Democratic Policy Committee on HB 2210, a bill introduced by Representative Morgan Cephas  providing for expungement of disciplinary records for nonviolent offenses. She discussed the academic and societal harms of exclusionary discipline practices, their racially disproportionate application, and the need for  evidence-based prac tices to promote positive school climate.  Read Reynelle's testimony here.
ELC Continues Work Promoting Legal Rights of Immigrant Students

Working with several community groups, ELC has been promoting the adoption of a "Welcoming Schools Resolution" and/or revision of school district policies to ensure the ongoing safety, attendance, and legal rights of immigrant students. At an April 5 school board meeting of the Haverford School District, the administration reported that the district is revising several policies regarding enrollment, visitor policies, and disclosure of student records to align with a proposed Welcoming Students Resolution. A sample Welcoming Schools Resolution can be accessed here.
ELC Helps Craft Position Paper on School Safety

As part of the Civil Rights Roundtable, ELC contributed to a national white paper on school safety released by the Roundtable on April 2. This document responds to issues being debated both nationally and at the state level regarding school safety and highlights responsible, practical, and effective responses that can protect students and support positive learning environments.  
Child Welfare Data Collection Need Revisions, ELC Argues

ELC submitted comments on April 13 to oppose a proposed two-year delay in implementing critical revisions to federal child welfare data collection requirements. ELC previously successfully advocated for the addition of education-related data elements and continues to contend that this information is essential to ensuring the well-being of children in foster care and compliance with important federal education and child welfare laws.
ELC Continues Efforts to Reduce Suspensions of Young Children

At the PA Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) Spring Policy Forum, ELC Pittsburgh Director Nancy Hubley co-facilitated a leadership/partnership working group working to move policy to practice focused on OCDEL's policy announcement on " Reduction of Suspensions and Expulsions in Early Learning Programs." This is part of ELC's broader work to stop the school-to-prison pipeline, beginning in early childhood.
Discussing Philly Schools with Local Students

Policy Attorney Reynelle Brown Staley spoke with students from Youth Action, a nonprofit organization that helps youth impact their communities, about how schools are funded and their personal experiences as middle and high school students in Philadelphia.

Attorney Highlighted by Lawyers Journal

ELC Staff Attorney Cheryl Kleiman was quoted and featured on the cover of last week's Lawyers  Journal - the publication that goes out to every member of the Allegheny County bar. She was recognized by the Federal Court Section as one of their four scholarship recipients for the University of Virginia Advocacy College, which she attended in January.
Independence Foundation Fellow Presents on Panel to Promise Corps

Paige Joki, one of ELC's Independence Foundation Public Interest Law Fellows, spoke on a panel about her work as an education civil rights attorney working to eliminate educational barriers for students and families experiencing homelessness. Paige addressed a group of 35 members from the AmeriCorps West Philadelphia Promise Corps, who are beginning to plan the next steps in their careers and futures, about her journey to becoming an attorney, and about how her work affects Philadelphia's education system. Members of Promise Corps are currently working in four public West Philadelphia high schools to help students cultivate skills needed to graduate from high school and pursue postsecondary education.
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