April 2019
New Agreement Responds to ELC Complaint of Bias in Disciplinary Programs
A groundbreaking agreement  calling for sweeping changes in the state's disciplinary education programs was announced March 25 between the U.S. Justice Department and the Pennsylvania Department of Education in response to a 2013 ELC civil rights complaint . That complaint highlighted that students with disabilities and African American students were vastly overrepresented in Pennsylvania’s “Alternative Education for Disruptive Youth” (AEDY) programs. These students were languishing in these punitive, inferior programs.

The detailed 32-page settlement sets limits for how long students with disabilities can remain in AEDY programs and calls for English learner services and qualified, trained staff. It requires the state to collect data, analyze AEDY student outcomes, and report the findings on an annual basis. And the settlement agreement creates a complaint process. However, disappointingly, the agreement does not address the racial disparities that persist in these programs. ELC will continue to be involved, urging the state to track and address race and gender disparities in AEDY programs as well as implement the new requirements with fidelity. We will keep you posted as changes are made. We hope to see the number of students in these segregated programs continue to decline. Read media coverage of this settlement here , here , and here .
Report on Inequities in Philadelphia Charters Sparks Calls for Changes
Our recent study, “ Safeguarding Educational Equity: Protecting Philadelphia Students’ Civil Rights Through Charter Oversight ,” has garnered media coverage and sparked public conversation about charter school policies. The report provides strong evidence that Philadelphia’s traditional charter schools (excluding cybers and “Renaissance” schools) have a demographic makeup of students that is strikingly different from the population in District schools, with fewer economically disadvantaged students, English learners, and students with low-incidence disabilities. The report argues that the district’s charter oversight process does not adequately flag or respond to inequities in the charter school sector.

The report prompted a supportive editorial in the Philadelphia Inquirer, urging the School District of Philadelphia to “add equity as one of the criteria for approving or renewing charters.” School board members have echoed the report’s concerns about equitable access and charters’ role in increasing segregation. Follow-up by ELC staff will aim to ensure that civil rights concerns are made central to the evaluation process used by the district’s Charter School Office.
Emergency Order: All Remaining Students Removed from Glen Mills Schools
ELC is pleased that the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services has issued an emergency order directing that all children remaining at Glen Mills Schools be removed from this dangerous placement. The order is based on findings by DHS, confirming other published reports , that conditions in the facility constituted gross incompetence, negligence, and misconduct, including the mistreatment and abuse of children, posing immediate and serious danger to the life or health of the children in care. In February, ELC had called upon state lawmakers to direct DHS to revoke Glen Mills’ license and defund the facility, based on documented evidence highlighted in our report Unsafe and Uneducated regarding frequent and repeated violence and abuse, psychological harm, and deprivation of a meaningful education. 

ELC legal director Maura McInerney was featured in a March Radio Times broadcast highlighting the educational problems and other abuses at Glen Mills.
Requiring Schools to Use Metal Detectors Will Not Ensure Student Safety
Education Law Center staff joined with students and parents at a March 28 press conference opposing the mandate that all Philadelphia high schools must require students to pass through metal detectors. Here, parent activist Kendra Brooks speaks.
ELC submitted written testimony to the Philadelphia school board in opposition to a proposed amendment to school district policy, mandating that metal detectors be used in all District high schools. Unfortunately, on March 28, the school board voted 7-2 in favor of the policy, despite organized opposition from many students, advocates, and community members. As ELC explains in our testimony, physically hardening schools is not an effective way to ensure student safety. We will continue standing with students and our partners to advocate that the School District of Philadelphia, as well as all other districts, utilize effective, evidence-based, approaches to school and student safety.
ELC Files Amicus in Truancy Case
ELC, along with Juvenile Law Center (JLC), filed an amicus brief , In re J.L.,  in Pennsylvania Superior Court, challenging a judge’s decision to remove a student from his parents and place the child in a residential institution based purely on the student’s non-attendance at school. There were no allegations that the student’s parents were abusive or neglectful. ELC filed the amicus to educate the court on best practices for addressing truancy and to urge against the extreme and traumatic step of removing students from their homes based purely on truancy. Out-of-home placements put children at risk of negative life outcomes, including contact with the criminal justice system and further disengagement from school.
Pittsburgh Public Schools Revises Drug Policy
Pittsburgh Public Schools took significant steps in March to improve its practices around students’ first-time, minor drug violations to reduce the loss of instruction time and increase access to supports and services. PPS had previously ended its practice of automatically transferring students to alternative education for first-time, minor drug infractions but was still suspending students for 10 days until this recent policy change.

ELC had collaborated with Pittsburgh Public Schools last summer on the original policy changes, and we encouraged the district to take further steps to address the needs of students, instead of defaulting to lengthy school exclusions. With the changes made in March, students now have the option to receive counseling and a shorter suspension, consistent with our advocacy. ELC applauds PPS for this positive step and encourages other districts across the Commonwealth to similarly revise their policies.  
Philadelphia School Board Hears Testimony on English Learner Issues
ELC joined students, teachers, and community organizations that serve English learners (ELs) and immigrant students in presenting testimony about the needs of EL students and limited-English-proficient (LEP) parents at a March 14 meeting of the Student Achievement and Support Committee of the Philadelphia school board. ELC’s testimony provided an overview of their rights under the law and particular needs and concerns of ELs and LEP families. 

ELC’s recommendations focus on three key areas: 1) prompt enrollment and access to language assistance for families; 2) quality ESL instruction; and 3) equal access and opportunities (for example, to special education services or to selective high schools). This committee meeting was scheduled following continued advocacy by ELC and partners, including a letter requesting that the board devote an entire meeting to EL concerns as well as prior testimony .
ELC Fellow Honored with Pittsburgh Local Task Force Award
Congratulations to ELC attorney Jackie Perlow, who was honored on March 27 with the Pittsburgh Local Task Force’s English Learners’ Supports and Advocacy Award! Jackie was honored for her work to ensure that English learners with disabilities and their parents are provided equal opportunity and access to a quality education. Throughout her Equal Justice Works fellowship, Jackie has played an important role in crafting ELC’s strategies to advance education equity for English learners with disabilities, resulting in significant revisions to Pittsburgh Public Schools’ policies and practices. Jackie received the award in front of the PPS Board of Directors, the superintendent, and her proud ELC colleagues. Congrats, Jackie!
Jackie Perlow with PPS Superintendent Dr. Anthony Hamlet.
ELC Co-hosting Event Featuring Dr. Monique Morris on April 25
ELC is partnering with Drexel’s Critical Conversations in Urban Education to host a discussion about how negative stereotypes and racialized gender bias specific to Black girls contribute to their overrepresentation in school discipline and in systems of confinement. Through the lens of intersectionality, Dr. Monique Morris, author of  Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools , will share what she has learned about the school experiences of Black girls. Dr. Morris’s keynote will be followed by an assets-based, solution-focused panel discussion among local lawyers, educators, and community members, including ELC attorney Yvelisse Pelotte, on our role in the protection of the future of Black girls in Philadelphia and beyond. The event is April 25 from 6 - 8:30 p.m. (registration begins at 5) at the Academy of Natural Sciences. Please RSVP here .
PA Schools Work Petition Calls for Funding Boost
Please consider signing this PA Schools Work petition to encourage Gov. Wolf and the legislature to increase basic education funding by $400 million and special education funding by $100 million in the 2019-20 budget. The current proposed budget falls short of what Pennsylvania needs to bridge the wide funding gap between the poorest and wealthiest districts. Learn more about the PA Schools Work campaign here . This Thursday, April 4, please join PA Schools Work partners from 12 - 1 p.m. to create a Twitter storm – a flurry of tweets aimed at generating thousands of signatures on the petition urging adequate school funding. Click here to view the PA Schools Work guide for the Twitter storm.
We're Hiring!
ELC is currently searching for experienced attorneys for full-time openings. We are also reviewing applications for fall and spring semester externships and practicums in our Philadelphia office. Please visit our website for more information on open positions.
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