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New Report: Suspension & Expulsion in Virginia

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Sad studentVirginia schools have a crisis on their hands. Waves of students are being pushed out of school though the widespread, discriminatory overuse of suspension and expulsion.

Suspended Progress, a new report released today by the JustChildren Program of the Legal Aid Justice Center reveals that, last school year, Virginia schools issued over 126,000 out-of-school suspensions to approximately 70,000 students. The report details disturbing findings from the 2014-15 school year, including:

  • One-fifth of all suspensions were issued to pre-kindergarten and elementary school students;
  • The majority of suspensions were for relatively minor, non-violent, subjective misbehavior like “disruption,” “defiance,” and “disrespect;”
  • African American students and students with disabilities were suspended at hugely disparate rates; and
  • Statewide suspension rates flattened out after years of steady progress.

“Suspension hurts everyone. Suspended students are at a significantly greater risk of academic failure, dropping out, and becoming involved in the justice system,” said Angela Ciolfi, JustChildren’s Legal Director and co-author of the report. “Worse yet, suspension damages school climate, public safety, and the economy.” The U.S. Departments of Education and Justice have been pushing states across the country to reduce school exclusion, and many states have made tremendous strides in limiting the use of suspension and expulsion, investing in prevention and alternatives, and holding districts accountable.

JustChildren’s report also provides information about proven behavioral interventions and alternatives to suspension and expulsion, including MyTeachingPartner, social and emotional learning, multi-tiered systems of support, threat assessments, and restorative practices. These programs and frameworks have been shown to both improve school safety and climate and reduce suspensions and disparities. “What’s so sad is that we know what works,” said Jason Langberg, a JustChildren attorney and co-author of the report. “We just haven’t had the political will to abandon the failed ‘zero tolerance’ mentality and to begin providing educators with the resources they need to ensure schools are safe and supportive.”

The report concludes with common sense recommendations for lawmakers and policymakers. JustChildren calls upon the General Assembly, Virginia Board of Education, and local school board members to act with a sense of urgency in promoting positive school climate and keeping students in school and on a path toward graduation and success in adulthood.

Press Release

Report

For more information, contact Angela Ciolfi at (434) 529-1810 or angela@justice4all.org.

Immigrant Clients Win In-State Tuition

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Seven courageous immigrant students represented by Legal Aid Justice Center have won their effort to gain in-state tuition eligibility—not just for themselves, but for thousands of Virginia recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced this morning that DACA recipients are eligible to apply for in-state tuition under existing Virginia law, as the students had argued in a lawsuit filed by the Legal Aid Justice Center last year. Legal Aid Justice Center thanks Attorney General Herring for opening the doors of educational opportunity to these deserving Virginia students.

Resources
Press Release (PDF)

Frequently Asked Questions (PDF)

Read the Lawsuit (PDF)

Read Attorney General Herring’s Letter (4/29/14)

News Coverage
Big Victory for Local Legal Aid Center (C-ville Weekly 4/29/14)

Virginia Attorney General Opens In-State Tuition to Immigrant Students (NY Times, 4/29/14)

Virginia AG Declares ‘Dreamers’ Eligible for In-State Tuition (Washington Post, 4/29/14)

Korean Student in Virginia Joined Forces with Latino “DREAMers” (Washington Post, 5/3/14)

Undocumented Immigrants in Va. Qualify for In-State Tuition (USA Today College, 5/5/14)

Immigrant Plaintiffs Who Sued for Lower Tuition Get Big Victory (C-ville Weekly, 5/8/14)

 

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