The January 8 announcement from the White Housethat it would require schools to “meet their obligations under federal law to administer student discipline without discriminating on the basis of race, color, or national origin” opens a new chapter of the Civil Rights Movement and—like some of the preceding chapters—its pages are written by teenagers.
Some of those teenage authors of change—Damien, Carlos, Lester, Josh—are already known to Liberty Hill supporters. These African American, Latino and Asian-Pacific Islander boys and young men and their allies of our Brothers, Sons, Selves campaign won the nation’s first ban on suspensions for “willful defiance” (often simply behavior problems) in May of last year. The ban is part of a “School Climate Bill of Rights” resolution passed by L.A. Unified School District in response to the Brothers Sons Selves campaign and is a reason why L.A. is one of just a few states and cities that have taken concrete action to reform school discipline.
L.A. was the first school district in the nation to take this important step to end the school to prison pipeline, and as the second-largest school district in the country, L.A.’s discipline policies set the pace for school districts all across America. The White House gets that.
Q: How did Liberty Hill become a national leader in the movement to end the school to prison pipeline and improve outcomes for low income and young men of color?
A: In partnership with The California Endowment, Liberty Hill is managing a campaign here in Los Angeles to end what Harvard called “the school to prison pipeline.”
California’s future prosperity depends on all Californians having a fair chance to thrive and succeed. Right now in Los Angeles, low income and young men of color have the lowest life expectancy rates, highest unemployment rates, most murder victims and fewest high school and college graduates of any demographic group. That’s what we discovered when we issued a report two years ago.
Los Angeles and California need its young men. These are our brothers. Our sons. That’s why we called this campaign Brothers Sons Selves.
We published a report and then we held a hearing of the Assembly Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color, and our coalition's student activists briefed Assembly members in Sacramento.
Our first campaign, Every Student Matters, resulted in L.A. becoming the first school district in the country to ban “willful defiance” as a cause for suspension. (See a video about that campaign here.) Then a similar campaign was won in Long Beach. (See the Long Beach video.) In education, we need a return to common-sense discipline that works. We know that less punitive approaches dramatically improve school learning.
2014 is the year in which we make it real. LAUSD is beginning to implement these new policies this month as students go back to school after winter break. That’s why the validation coming from the White House and the national expansion of these efforts is so important.