Rep. Ayanna Pressley Introduces Bill to End School to Prison Pipeline

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The Intercept - December 5, 2019

"While most criminal justice policy is determined at the state and local level, Pressley said that the federal government has a responsibility to set the tone, particularly since it was the 1994 federal crime bill, {A Clinton-Biden Democratic Legislation -CIJ commentary} that encouraged state and local governments to embrace mass incarceration policies, including by creating a “community policing program” that devoted 750 million dollars to the hiring of school-based police. “If those incentives were in place to promote mass incarceration, then we can also put in place incentives that promote decarceration,” Pressley told The Intercept. “When you say, ‘What can the federal government do?’ This is what we must do, because we created these disparate outcomes.”

Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts introduced new legislation Thursday aimed at ending the “school to confinement pathway.” The bill targets discriminatory and punitive school discipline policies that push black and brown students out of schools at disproportionately high rates, often directly into the criminal justice system.

The bill offers incentives to states and schools that commit to ban most suspensions and expulsions, as well as corporal punishment and the physical restraint of students. It also allots resources to the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights at a time when the Trump administration has worked to gut it, and establishes an interagency task force to end school pushout policies and examine their impact on girls of color, who are disproportionately penalized by current disciplinary policies. The bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and endorsed by more than a dozen community organizations, is the first to follow Pressley’s People’s Justice Guarantee, a comprehensive resolution introduced last month that maps how the federal government can tackle the injustices of the criminal legal system through a sweeping set of policies.

Schools have often served as young people’s first point of contact with the criminal justice system, and many students have seen their education disrupted by suspensions and expulsions. In recent years, viral videos of school-based police officers brutally tackling, dragging, or slamming to the ground black and brown children over minor disciplinary infractions have underscored the pervasiveness of school policies that criminalize and traumatize students. But to date Congress has done little to address such policies.

The Ending Punitive, Unfair, School-Based Harm that is Overt and Unresponsive to Trauma Act would establish $2.5 billion in new federal grants for schools that commit to a set of measures aimed at overhauling the ways schools handle discipline. Schools receiving grants would have to agree to rewrite their discipline policies and include students, families, and communities in the process. They would have to commit to train educators in restorative practices and trauma-informed approaches, and invest in counselors, social workers, and mental health professionals rather than police officers. The bill earmarks $2.5 billion more for the Education Department to improve collection of civil rights data and strengthens the capacity of the department’s civil rights enforcement. ...
Read full report at The Intercept

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