April 2021
Anti-Asian Racism: We Must
Stop the Violence and Hate 
Art: Eric Joselyn
“Although the recent increase in anti-Asian attacks has been hard for all of us, the murderous killing spree in Atlanta has our families, our youth, and our communities spiraling,” wrote educators Wayne Au and Moé Yonamine in the publication Rethinking Schools.
 
Their article reminds us that that harassment and violence targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders is not new. It is widespread, exacerbated by pandemic-related xenophobia, with thousands of documented incidents of anti-Asian violence in the past year here and across the country, including the mass shooting in Atlanta and multiple attacks of Asian elders across the U.S. We hear from parents who tell us they fear sending their children to school worried about anti-Asian bullying, harassment, and violence. This racism is deeply rooted in our nation’s history of white supremacy. The enduring sense of loss and fear is profound. How can we adequately honor the victims, support the survivors, and transform our society to prevent tragedies like this from happening?

Those of us involved in education have had our work cut out for us. There is so much to be done to make our schools safe and affirming spaces that are free from discrimination and harassment to interrupt anti-Asian bias and shift away from a culture of bystanders to communities that stand up against racism and white supremacy in all its forms. ELC remains deeply committed to that work.

We need culturally responsive curricula and accurate descriptions of history. That includes devoting more attention to teaching about Asian American history and culture. Schools must become welcoming and safe educational communities that protect immigrant families from ICE enforcement. We find useful resources nationally in publications like Rethinking Schools and Learning for Justice, and from local educators. Our local partners in the Asian American community have been working for years to address these very issues and are lending their voices to this conversation, and we will continue to look for ways to lift up their work.
Standing Together, Demanding
Justice for George Floyd
In our schools and communities and all around the world, people are following and discussing the trial of Derek Chauvin, the white former police officer charged with the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man. It is an important time for educators to be supporting and centering Black students and for all of us to be supporting our Black friends and colleagues as many of us re-experience the trauma of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many others. 

We must all do the critical work of unlearning white supremacy, ensuring that we deepen this nation’s long-overdue reckoning with systemic racism. It is incumbent on all of us to develop that deep understanding and dedicate ourselves to the long-term fight: for justice for George Floyd and to eradicate white supremacy in all its iterations.
School Recovery Must Address Needs of
English Learners, Immigrant Students
In a March 30 town hall meeting to craft a “school recovery plan” for Philadelphia, ELC attorney and Independence Foundation Public Interest Law Fellow Sophia Tan testified about the urgent issues impacting Philadelphia’s 16,500 English learners, many of whom “have not been able to meaningfully access their education since school buildings closed a year ago.” Tan said that hiring additional bilingual counseling assistants (BCAs) is critical in efforts to remediate the resulting learning loss and disengagement. BCAs act as cultural brokers, interpreters, and can monitor and support students in their language groups.
 
In light of ongoing racist and xenophobic anti-immigrant violence, Tan also emphasized the need to provide culturally affirming training to help staff create welcoming environments for students who bring diverse strengths and experiences, but who are often targeted for bullying or harassment. The town hall was hosted by City Councilmember Helen Gym.
Winning School Stability:
The Right to Remain Enrolled
An advocate called ELC’s intake line to refer “Yulia,” a 4th grader who was improperly disenrolled from her southeastern Pennsylvania school district. During a special education meeting at the student’s school, Yulia’s parent, Ms. M., had disclosed that the family moved out of the district to live doubled up with relatives due to economic hardship. The school sent a residency officer, who visited the student’s home and presented a document, while threatening prosecution and tuition charges if the parent refused to sign. Ms. M. speaks Spanish and could not understand the officer’s demands or read the form. Instead, the child was forced to act as the interpreter.

ELC contacted the district solicitor with complaints about this process and lack of language access and demanded Yulia’s prompt re-enrollment under the McKinney-Vento Act. Yulia was successfully returned to school.
Education Rights Violations at
Delco Facility Must Be Investigated
In a letter to Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro on March 25, Education Law Center and other child-serving organizations have highlighted that children placed at the Delaware County Juvenile Detention Center, who were predominantly Black and Brown and living in poverty, in addition to all the other horrific abuses they were subjected to, were deprived of their constitutional and civil right to an education and discriminated against on the basis of their disabilities.

The letter called for a comprehensive investigation, urging the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Enforcement Section to investigate systemic deprivations of education and civil rights violations. ELC encourages you to use social media to amplify the need for an investigation, contact the attorney general, and share stories with us or others of anyone impacted educationally by treatment at DCJDC. 
Press Conference Friday;
Ruling in Funding Case Clears Path for Trial
A March 8 Commonwealth Court ruling allows all five of the parent plaintiffs in our historic fair funding lawsuit against Pennsylvania state officials to remain in the case. The judge found that two parents whose children had graduated from high school since the case was filed in 2014 could pursue their claims because the case “involves an issue of great public importance.” The ruling also resolved the last significant legal hurdle before the case moves to trial later this year.

ELC, along with our co-counsel, the Public Interest Law Center, will be hosting a livestreamed press conference on Friday, April 2 at 1 PM, to provide an important update on the case. You can watch it on our Fund Our Schools PA Facebook page.

Funding advocates have been heartened by the massive infusion of federal funds for schools through the American Rescue Plan. The $5 billion going to schools in Pennsylvania will allow for some significant new investments as well as addressing the substantial costs of the pandemic, including significant learning losses experienced by students. But as a one-time infusion of funds, it is not a long-term or systemic solution to the ongoing education funding crisis facing many Pennsylvania school districts and the dramatic disparities in resources between districts.
Transparency Still Lacking in
Chester Upland Outsourcing Plan
ELC continues to represent Chester parents and the Delaware County Advocacy & Resource Organization, which serves students with disabilities, in the Chester Upland School District receivership case. ELC, along with our co-counsel Public Interest Law Center, is fighting a fast-tracked plan, shrouded in secrecy, to outsource schools in the district. Chester Upland has a long history of being racially segregated by policy and design and for decades has been deprived of the educational resources students need to learn. Our advocacy has focused on ensuring that any proposed outsourcing or conversion of schools to charters will improve the quality of education for all students and result in actual cost savings to the district. We have fought to ensure greater parent input and transparency and highlighted how decades of underfunding and systemic racism has harmed Chester Upland students.

On March 10, we filed an emergency motion to compel disclosure of the proposals of bidders as well as information on how the proposals are being evaluated. In response, that same day the receiver released the names of all three bidders (Chester Community Charter School, Friendship Education Foundation, and Global Leadership Academy) who submitted proposals to take over district schools, along with the names of task force members who are reviewing the proposals. The judge heard oral argument on March 31 regarding our emergency motion. We continue to demand further transparency and encourage more media investigation in this process that could lead to outsourcing of many schools in the district. 

Read our most recent emergency petition here, and a letter updating the court following the release of names here.
A New Policy Agenda
for Black Girls to Thrive
ELC is excited to share She Matters, a federal policy agenda for Black girls to thrive, from our partners at Gwen’s Girls and the Black Girls Equity Alliance. ELC attorney Essence Kimes, our Equal Justice Works fellow sponsored by PNC Bank and McGuireWoods, contributed to the policy agenda and echoes its call to action through her work to ensure that Black girls have access to culturally affirming mental health services in school.
Panel on Strategies to Dismantle
the School-to-Prison Pipeline
Staff attorney Paige Joki spoke about “Dismantling the School to Prison Pipeline” as a panelist at a University of Virginia Law School event, a candid discussion about the need to address white supremacy in schools and center restorative justice practices in responding to age-appropriate student misbehavior. Paige and other speakers on the March 25 panel fielded questions from high school students, school-based professionals, and law students about how historical mechanisms of racist control and exclusion continue to plague our schools today. Paige highlighted the importance of centering Black girls in calls for reform and restoration and discussed the role that racial bias plays in undermining equitable access to education at all levels of the school community.  
Advocating for Children Whose
Early Intervention Services
Were Disrupted by the Pandemic
During the pandemic, we learned that many young children in southeastern Pennsylvania receiving Early Intervention services through the Elwyn SEEDS program were not receiving a free appropriate public education due to disruptions in services and technology or internet access barriers. ELC filed a complaint in December with the state’s Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) against Elwyn.

OCDEL has ordered significant corrective action stemming from our complaint, including requiring Elwyn to provide make-up services to all of our named complainants and all similarly situated students who experienced educational disruptions due to COVID-19. Importantly, Elwyn must conduct meetings prior to May to determine necessary make-up services for all children who were eligible for early intervention over the last year. We remain committed to addressing the stark equity barriers for Pennsylvania’s youngest learners, which have been exacerbated by COVID-19.  
Special Ed Evaluations: American
Rescue Plan Could Help with Backlog
Presenting to the Philadelphia school board at a public hearing March 18, ELC staff attorney Margie Wakelin testified about a massive backlog of needed special education evaluations that the pandemic created, exacerbating preexisting delays, and called for immediate intervention and strategic planning to ensure children have the supports they need. Her testimony highlighted the significant findings of problems by the Pennsylvania Department of Education in response to a 2019 ELC complaint about untimely evaluations. Federal and state law sets time limits for timely identification and evaluation of students suspected of having a disability.
 
ELC is urging the board to take specific steps to address this crisis, including allocating federal aid from the American Rescue Plan to hire at least ten new psychologists ‒ to ensure that children are appropriately identified for critical special education services and not wrongly tracked into inappropriate programming.
We're Hiring!
ELC is seeking an attorney for a full-time position in our Philadelphia office. A temporary position (3-6 months) to focus on urgent trial matters may also be considered (timeline to be determined). Primary duties will focus on impact litigation and direct representation of clients and will also include working with community partners and informing our policy advocacy at the local, state, and federal levels. The candidate should have a demonstrated commitment to racial justice, public interest law, civil rights, and advancing the rights of underserved populations. Learn more here.

See our website for policy and development job opportunities at ELC. 
What We're Reading...
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A copy of the official registration and financial information of the Education Law Center may be obtained from the Department of State by calling toll-free, within Pennsylvania, 1-880-732-0999. Registration does not imply endorsement.