Discipline means to teach. Yet many school districts have discipline policies that reflect punitive practices that excessively exclude students, particularly students of color. By providing a living model of “systems change,” this presentation will demonstrate how addressing the systems that impact young men and boys of color (YMBOC) can not only disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline, but also help to change the overall narrative of YMBOCs in their local community.
Aisha Carson, MPA
American Civil LIberties Union of Mississippi
Biography: Aisha Carson is the Advocacy Coordinator for the Sunflower County Systems Change Project, a partnership between the ACLU of Mississippi, Mississippi Center for Justice(MCJ), Sunflower County Consolidated School District, and Sunflower County Consolidated School District P-16 Engagement Council. Her work through the Sunflower County Systems Change Project focuses on education policy and the greater issues surrounding school discipline and the criminalization of Young Men and Boys of Color. She is an alumnus of the University of Southern Mississippi, where she received a BA in Political Science with a concentration in Black Studies. Her experience in volunteering for MCJ and as a civil rights researcher in the Center for Oral History exponentially grew her knowledge of the challenges that face vulnerable communities and their access to quality education helped to shape her aptitude for systems change. Aisha also received a Master’s in Public Administration from Belhaven University.
Mississippi Center for Justice
Biography: Jacorius Liner serves as the Advocacy Coordinator for the Systems Change Collaborative Project in partnership with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). This collaborative is funded by the W.K. Kellogg foundation to address the disparities and disproportionality of Young Men and Boys of Color (YMBOC) around school discipline and youth court referrals. Jacorius received his undergraduate education at the Mississippi University for Women and his Master’s Degree in Public Policy at Mississippi State University. He also works as a graduate researcher at the Stennis Institute of Government where he’s delved heavily into the practicality of community and economic development literature—economic impact studies, feasibility studies, and other applied research paradigms. He is currently a doctoral candidate at Mississippi State University and his expected completion date is May 2017.
Introduction: The session will begin with a community-building circle, a proponent of restorative justice practices that is a preventive measure used to reinforce positive behavior and build relationships with students. This will provide context for the audience about how tools such as community-building circles can be used in schools to provide supportive and inclusive environments for students of color. After the opening activity, the introduction will resume by reiterating the common uses of discipline as a means to exclude students and the results of exclusion on students of color. Based on the framework for the Sunflower County Systems Change Project (SCSCP), the systems change approach evokes the theory that engaging systems, identifying and remedying ailments, and creating different outcomes serves as a framework for sustainable change. The introduction will conclude with a road map (handout) of the process used to educate and implement the systems change model in Sunflower County to address the excessive suspension, expulsion, and referrals to the Youth Court of young men and boys of color (YMBOC).
Based on the 2006 review of exclusionary and zero-tolerance disciplinary policies, the American Psychological Association found no evidence that the use of suspension, expulsion, or zero tolerance policies has resulted in improvements in student behavior or increases in school safety. It found that suspensions and expulsions are linked to an increased likelihood of future behavior problems, academic difficulty, detachment, and dropout. This section of the presentation will outline how the project team partnered with the school district to (1) provide added capacity in addressing the consistent analysis of discipline data and using data to make informed decisions about discipline; (2) increase community involvement in reviewing and making policy recommendations and actual district policy changes; and (3) provide training and professional development to school personnel, helping to expand capacity about school discipline alternatives. This includes teachers, administrators, staff, and school resource officers.
Each year approximately 1.3 million young people drop out of school. Students who have dropped out or been involved in the juvenile justice system are more likely to have been suspended or expelled than their peers. Students that drop out are three times more likely to be incarcerated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that “out of school” youth are significantly more likely than “in school” youth to become involved in physical fights, carry a weapon, smoke, and use alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs. Economists estimate that raising high school graduation rates would decrease violent crime by 20 percent and property crime by 10 percent. A key component in addressing school push-out is working directly with the local Youth Court. This portion of the presentation will discuss ways to create communication channels between local school districts and Youth Courts to foster understanding of Youth Court processes to inform school district policies. Using lessons learned from the SCSCP, the presenters will provide ways for local communities and districts to avoid criminalizing behavior and provide alternatives to Youth Court referrals, specifically restitution, community service, and, in particular, case support from counselors. These alternatives can be used in lieu of exclusion or Youth Court referrals, and can offer students limited exclusion and the ability to learn from their behavior.
The media often perpetuate negative perceptions of YMBOC. The systems change element of changing outcomes for YMBOC includes changing the larger narrative through media engagement. The SCSCP has made substantial strides in helping to identify local strategies to prevent the criminalization of YMBOC, including incorporating youth voice. This portion of the presentation will outline clear steps to increase positive messaging around YMBOC in local media to aid in narrative change.
The audience will receive a data report that will also detail the strategies discussed in the presentation. The presentation will conclude with questions from the audience.
Secondary and Postsecondary Educators: new or veteran educators who teach in diverse school settings
Administrators: Specifically administrators who handle school discipline matters
School Counselors: Specifically counselors who work in high-poverty areas or who frequently engage with students with behavorial issues Researchers: Education researchers who have a particular interest in the school-to-prison pipeline and preventative policy