November News:   OCR Opens Investigation re: Bullying, SRC Revises Language Instruction Policy, ELC Urges Pittsburgh and Philadelphia to End Exclusionary Discipline of Young Learners, and more!
OCR Opens Investigation in Response to ELC's Claims of Discrimination for Failing to Address Bullying

The United States Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights ("OCR") has opened an investigation in response to ELC's Complaint alleging that the School District of Philadelphia discriminated against students with disabilities by failing to promptly and appropriately address incidents of alleged bullying and harassment.  In its Complaint filed in July, ELC contended that the District's failure to respond appropriately to pervasive and severe bullying of students with disabilities resulted in the denial of a free appropriate public education ("FAPE") to these children.  ELC also alleged that the District further discriminated against many students by referring them to Truancy Court when they refused to go to school after months or years of pervasive bullying.  OCR will now investigate these claims and decide whether the District's actions denied the students a FAPE and whether the District improperly referred parents and students to Truancy Court.  "We are thrilled that OCR will exercise its enforcement authority to investigate these critical civil rights allegations, and we will continue to seek effective remedies for vulnerable children affected by the District's discriminatory policies and practices," said ELC Staff Attorney Alex Dutton, who filed the Complaint.  
SRC Revises Language Instruction Policy for English Learner Students

In response to ELC's advocacy, Philadelphia's School Reform Commission agreed to revise its new Language Instruction Policy (Policy 138) to make the high school application process more transparent and equitable for English learners and Limited English proficient parents who have difficulty understanding the high school application process due to language barriers and lack of information.  ELC's requested revisions specifically state that EL students will be assisted in applying to high school and will receive needed accommodations and supports, including modifications and waivers of admission criteria to enable EL students to access special programs and specialized schools.  The revised policy will be reviewed by the SRC on December 7, 2017.  
ELC Urges Pittsburgh Public Schools to End Exclusion of Young Learners 

ELC Staff Attorney Cheryl Kleiman testified at the Pittsburgh Public School Board hearing on the need to ban suspensions and expulsions of students in elementary school (read the testimony here). ELC urged the board to join the growing number of districts across the country that have adopted policies to minimize the harms of exclusionary discipline which fall disproportionately on students of color and students with disabilities. With appreciation for the need to have fair and adequate school funding to support a positive school climate, ELC urged the district to spend less on punitive systems like alternative education and school police and to instead invest more on prevention, inclusion, and evidence-based practices that are necessary for all students to succeed.
ELC Opposes Suspensions of Children in Grades 1-5 at Philadelphia City Council Hearing 

On November 2, ELC Staff Attorney Yvelisse Pelotte testified on behalf of ELC at a joint committee hearing commissioned by Philadelphia City Council's Committee on Children and Youth and the Education Committee. She provided compelling testimony detailing the civil rights implications of out-of-school suspensions, which are meted out in a racially discriminatory way, and urged City Council to support ELC's longstanding request that the School District of Philadelphia immediately ban the use of suspensions in grades 1-5.
ELC Spreads the Word about Students Experiencing Homelessness 

This month, ELC's Legal Director Maura McInerney appeared on The Education and Policy Leadership Center's "Focus on Education" TV Program on the Pennsylvania Cable Network. Maura participated in a panel discussion on "Homeless Students in Pennsylvania." Please click here to watch the show.

ELC also participated in Awareness Week for Students Experiencing Homelessness. Using the hashtag #IWillBeYourVoice, the statewide campaign highlighted resources available to students and families and encouraged students to reach out to teachers and guidance counselors at school. ELC staff provided a joint training to school principals and shelter providers at the School District of Philadelphia and participated in video messages. Learn more here

On November 28, 2017, ELC staff attended a city-wide Forum on Youth Homelessness along with City officials and other nonprofit leaders to explore the problem and solutions to youth homelessness in Philadelphia. The Forum was led by Voices of Youth Count participants who have experienced homelessness.  You can read ELC's analysis of the Philadelphia Voices of Youth Count Report here.
ELC Fellow Lizzy Wingfield Wins Philadelphia Bar Association's Ginsburg Writing Competition

The Philadelphia Bar Association has named ELC Stoneleigh Fellow Lizzy Wingfield as the winner of the Ruth Bader Ginsburg "Pursuit of Justice" Legal Writing Competition. Lizzy will be recognized at the Bar Association's Annual Meeting Luncheon on December 5, 2017. Her winning essay, How Transgender and Gender-Nonconforming Students May Challenge Philadelphia Charter Schools' Gendered Dress Codes, will be published in The Philadelphia Lawyer and on the Bar Association's website.
ELC Attorneys Participate in Transgender Awareness Week Events

ELC attorneys, including Stoneleigh Emerging Leader Fellow Lizzy Wingfield, participated in community events planned by our partners Galaei, The Philadelphia Mayor's Office of LGBT Affairs, and others, in recognition of Transgender Awareness Week. Transgender students have the right to a safe and affirming school environment that allows them to focus on school like everyone else. But a national survey found that 75% of transgender youth feel unsafe at school and had significantly lower GPAs and were more likely to skip school out of concern for their safety than their cisgender peers. We look forward to continuing to coordinate with and be informed by our partners in our work to support transgender students and remove barriers to their educational success.
Thanks for Your Generosity on #GivingTuesday!

T hank you to everyone who donated to ELC as part of #GivingTuesday!  Click here to read about Sharee, a student ELC helped after she was expelled for possession of a pencil!  Thank you for your support. With your help, we will continue to ensure access to a quality public education for all children in Pennsylvania .

Please continue to support ELC's work in your year-end giving plans.  Here are three great ways to do that:
  • Support ELC by donating on our website.
  • Support ELC by texting "ELC" and your donation amount to 91999.
  • Support ELC by choosing code 1873 on your employer's United Way
    of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey Donor Option form.
 Thank you!
Employment and Internship Opportunities at ELC

ELC has openings in our Philadelphia office for a  Budget and Financial Assistant, a Paralegal/Intake Coordinator, and a Development and Communications Associate.

We are also looking for Interns and Post-Graduate Fellows in our Philadelphia and Pittsburgh offices.
For more information on these opportunities, please click here.
Join the Campaign for Fair Education Funding

Alongside more than 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.
 What We're Reading/Listening/Watching...
United Way Donor Choice Code: 1873 (Greater Philadelphia and Southern NJ)

A copy of the Education Law Center's official registration and financial information may be obtained from the Pennsylvania Department of State by calling 1-800-732-0999. Registration does not imply endorsement.  
Ensuring access to a quality public education for all children in Pennsylvania
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