Sunday, November 29, 2009

Today’s New York Times Editorial on the “Over-Punishment in Schools”

Here is a link to some follow-up information from the media to our new You Tube posting below on the “School to Prison Pipeline.”

Entitled, “Over-Punishment in Schools,” today’s New York Times editorial talks about the concern we raised over the increasing criminalization of our students that has resulted from school policies and practices that channel students from the public schools into the juvenile justice system.

The editorial alerts its readers to the increasing awareness by social justice advocates of policies put into place in the last decade in schools across the country:

“… juvenile justice advocates across the country are rightly worried about policies under which children are sometimes arrested and criminalized for behavior that once was dealt with by principals or guidance counselors working with a student’s parents.

“Children who are singled out for arrest and suspension are at greater risk of dropping out and becoming permanently entangled with the criminal justice system. It is especially troubling that these children tend to be disproportionately black and Hispanic, and often have emotional problems or learning disabilities.”

One of the problems identified has been the overpolicing in the schools. The NY Times editorial talks about an attempt to address this issue by the New York Council that has drafted a bill called the Student Safety Act. One of the goals of the act is to bring greater accountability and transparency to the issue.

The editorial describes the goals of the act as follows:

"The draft bill would require police and education officials to file regular reports that would show how suspensions and other sanctions affect minority children, children with disabilities and other vulnerable groups. Detailed reports from the Police Department would show which students were arrested or issued summonses and why, so that lawmakers could get a sense of where overpolicing might be a problem.

"Most important, the bill would create an easily navigable system under which parents, students and teachers could file complaints against school security officers. This provision comes in response to a 2007 report by the New York Civil Liberties Union, which said students were being roughed up for minor infractions like talking back or walking the halls without a pass.

We would be interested in sharing actions taken in other states. Readers who have information on their state are encouraged to share it with our readers on this blog.


Here are links to a December 14, 2009 op-ed from the New York Times entitled, “Judging our Children,” and a December 16, 2009 editorial entitled, “De-Criminalizing Children.”

Both articles continue the conversation. The latter article urges Congress to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice Delinquency and Prevention Act of 1974. The act had required the states to humanize their juvenile justice policies in order to receive federal funds.

Another op-ed article from the NY Times on March 5, 2010: Cops vs. Kids

From the March 18, 2010 issue of the NY Times: School Suspensions Lead to Legal Challenge By Erik Eckholm

The latest from a NY Times editorial of September 18, 2010: One Strike and They're Out

Monday, November 23, 2009

New YouTube Clip Now Online! "School to Prison Pipeline"

In the excerpt below, ACLU staff attorney Rose Spidell discusses "The School to Prison Pipeline." This term describes a disturbing national trend in which school policies and practices are increasingly pushing students out of the public school and into the juvenile justice system. It refers to the current trend of criminalizing our students rather than educating them and the disproportionate effect it has on different student populations, especially, students of color. Spidell also describes some case studies out of Washington state. The excerpt is taken from the 2009 Annual Educational Law and Social Justice Forum held at Western Washington University on April 29th. The forum is an annual event sponsored by the Journal of Educational Controversy. Readers can view the entire forum on our journal's website.

View the full video of the forum here:

To learn more about "The School to Prison Pipeline," visit the ACLU's website here:

Education Policy Blog: Creating a Democratic Learning Community

Education Policy Blog: Creating a Democratic Learning Community

Check out the link above from the Education Policy Blog for more on Sam Chaltain's new book that we discuss in the post below.

Friday, November 20, 2009

American Schools: The Art of Creating a Democratic Learning Community

Many of our readers will remember Sam Chaltain’s article, “Ways of Seeing (and of Being Seen): Visibility in Schools,” that we published in our winter 2008 issue of the journal on the theme, “Schooling as if Democracy Matters.” Sam is the National Director for the Forum for Education & Democracy. In his article, he describes the current state of invisibility so many students experience in our schools and lays the groundwork for rethinking the role of school leadership. “The central challenge in any organizational culture," writes Chaltain, "is to help people become more aware of the inner place from which they operate." Chaltain has now developed his ideas further in a new book, American Schools: The Art of Creating a Democratic Learning Community, published by Rowman & Littlefield Education and featuring a foreword from Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. If you are interested in reviewing this book for a future issue of our journal, please contact We are thinking about experimenting with a new video review format. If you have the expertise and would like to try this new format, let us know.

Below are some of the advance reviews of the book:

"Our country's ongoing commitment to democratic principles can only be actualized if democracy lives in our public schools. This book reveals how schools can help students and teachers see and hear one another, create a strong community, and develop the sensibilities and skills for democratic life. It provides a framework for democratic leadership that is accessible, actionable, and grounded in good pedagogy."—Linda Darling-Hammond, Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education, Stanford University

"Sam Chaltain expects schools to do more than merely give their students knowledge of the world. By helping them to make themselves known to the world, he believes that they will be able to meet the democratic goal of taking responsibility for it. This book offers ideas and practical examples."—Ted Sizer, founder, Coalition of Essential Schools and former Dean of Harvard Graduate School of Education

"A powerful concept provides the organizing theme of this refreshing book: our nation's school leaders must strike the right balance between freedom and structure in order to create healthy, high-functioning learning environments. But there is a pervasive, more subtle one that slips along with the turning of the pages: the curriculum provides knowledge and skills relevant to daily functioning, but the persona of the teacher powerfully shapes the becoming of each unique being."—John Goodlad, president, Institute for Educational Inquiry

"Sam Chaltain has written a provocative, daring book, one that tangles with how best to create community and tolerance within the walls of a school. Chaltain is on to something - that an understanding of freedom is essential to creating active, engaged citizens, and that supporting individual freedoms need not negate an orderly, structured environment. I urge you to read American Schools."—Alex Kotlowitz, author of There Are No Children Here

"I want to thank Sam Chaltain for writing this book. I wish I had the guidance of his ideas when my colleagues and I created our own network of public schools. Sam explains through personal stories and case studies how the visible can become visible, how the disengaged can become engaged, and how structure and freedom can complete a well-rounded education. Sam shows education leaders how student achievements can be enhanced, how teachers can be supported to use their talents and interests to learn from one another, and how the larger community of parents and citizens can be mobilized to become part of the ongoing creation of powerful schools. What separates this book from others on school leadership is its clear set of doable practice focused relentlessly on the public purpose of schools. Sam is a much talented writer; lyrical in his descriptions, humorous in his candor, and greatly respectful of educators who try each day to be true to their larger calling."—Carl Glickman, professor at the University of Georgia

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Friday is the 20th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child: When will the U.S. Sign On?

In our first issue of the journal, Nadine Strossen, the former president of the American Civil Liberties Union shared the following concern with our readers in her article, ” Keeping The Constitution Inside The Schoolhouse Gate--Students' Rights Thirty Years After Tinker V. Des Moines Independent Community School District.”
She wrote:

“Most importantly, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child,[7] which the United Nations General Assembly adopted unanimously in 1989, broke all records as both the most rapidly ratified and the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history.[8] Out of all 193 nation-states in the world, only two have not ratified this convention.[9] It recognizes broad rights for minors….
“Alas, though, of the two countries in the entire world that have not ratified this convention, one is our very own United States.[11] The only other country that is our companion in this tiny category of non-ratifiers is Somalia.[12] And that is only because Somalia does not have an internationally recognized government, so it is literally unable to ratify-an excuse that is not available to the United States![13] The United States Government's refusal to ratify this international convention protecting minors' and students' rights in part reflects our country's longstanding general isolationism concerning international law.[14] But it also reflects the recent subversion of young people's dignity and rights throughout our domestic political and legal systems.[15]”

This Friday, November 20th, will mark the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The United States has still not ratified this treaty in which the world community recognized the universal human rights and protection needs of children. During his presidential campaign, President Obama recognized the need to review our treaties in order to ensure that the United States resumes its role of global leadership in human rights. This Friday, on its 20th anniversary, would be a good day for the Senate to finally ratify the treaty. (It had been signed by President Clinton in 1995 but never ratified by the Senate)

For more information on the Convention on the Rights of the Child , go to Unicef website.