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Student Disciplinary Alternative Education Programs National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators

Representative Dora F. Olivo State of Texas District 27

WHEREAS, the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL) is the preeminent organization serving and representing the interests of Hispanic state legislators from all states, commonwealths, and territories of the United States and serves as a catalyst for joint action on issues of common concern to all segments of the Hispanic community; and

WHEREAS, improving the classroom experience for students is one of the policy objectives to close the achievement gaps as outlined by the NHCSL and National Black Caucus State Legislators (NBCSL) and to address the needs of Hispanic and African-American students; and

WHEREAS, NHCSL recognizes the critical importance of maintaining safe schools and believes strongly that we must create a safe environment where teachers can teach and our children can learn; and

WHEREAS, well-regarded studies have acknowledged a "School to Prison Pipeline" which refers to a continuum of educational policies and practices that converge to push students--disproportionately poor and minority--out of school and into juvenile halls and prisons; and

WHEREAS, in many states, disciplinary alternative educational settings use sub-standard facilities, have poorly trained teachers, are inadequately funded and do not follow traditional curriculum practices, resulting in the warehousing of students; and

WHEREAS, zero-tolerance and similar disciplinary policies are being expanded to include infractions that do not threaten school safety, resulting in a disproportionate number of minority students being ticketed, suspended and/or expelled to disciplinary alternative education programs, that too often lead to criminalizing conduct that is not unlawful; and

WHEREAS, in some states schools are allowed to institute discretionary removal policies that are not mandated or required by state law and furthermore those placements make up a majority of all placements of students in disciplinary educational settings; and

WHEREAS, the increasing presence of police officers in schools raises concerns about their proper training and the increasing use of criminal justice system to handle problem arising in school; and

WHEREAS, school accountability policies have the effect of encouraging the push-out of at-risk and low-performing students into disciplinary alternative education programs to boost test scores; and

WHEREAS, there is a need to propose legislation and policies to preserve due process rights of students and parents when they are confronted with unjust or counter-productive disciplinary actions by school officials in the public school system, or when officials make a mistake in attributing misbehavior; and

WHEREAS, there is a continual need to secure the due process rights for students with disabilities that are placed in disciplinary alternative education programs; and

WHEREAS, NHSCL holds that the necessary resources must be made available to schools so critical prevention and intervention efforts can be provided before disciplinary action is necessary and during the a student's placement in disciplinary educational programs;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that NHCSL opposes, in principle, "zero tolerance" and other harsh discipline policies that encourage the frequent use of suspension for student code violations or mandate expulsion to off-campus disciplinary educational settings or referral of students to juvenile or criminal court, without regard to the circumstances or nature of the offense or the student's history; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that NHCSL opposes policies and procedures that result in the warehousing of students in disciplinary alternative education programs without proper education standards; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that NHCSL supports policies that ensure school safety without compromising accountability and high educational standards.

Adopted this 18th day of March 2005 at the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators’ Executive Committee Meeting held in Atlanta, Georgia

Senator Leticia Van de Putte, TX
NHCSL President