Report: Racial Justice, LGBTQ Advocates Should Partner on School Issues

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WASHINGTON — A coalition of national advocacy organizations is calling for stronger relationships between racial justice and LGBTQ groups to help dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline.

In a new report released today, the organizations point out that advocates for young people of color and for young, LGBTQ people are working on parallel tracks to address disparities based on race, gender and sexual orientation in school discipline.

The advocates should collaborate to end disciplinary policies that push students out of school and into the justice system, the report said.

In many cases, students’ identities overlap, making a shared understanding critical, according to the advocates.

“We don’t see a way to work effectively on this issue without looking at it through both lenses,” said Ian Palmquist, director of leadership programs at the Equality Federation, which wrote the report with the Advancement Project and the Gay Straight Alliance Network.

The school-to-prison pipeline has moved from a fringe issue to one that school administrators are increasingly aware of, in part because of the work of advocates, said Thena Robinson-Mock, director of the “Ending the Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Track” program at the Advancement Project.

Now is the time to further those gains by making sure a strong network of advocates is in place, she said.

[Related: Changing Juvenile Justice Trajectories: Redirecting the School-to-Prison Pipeline]

The report includes a discussion of barriers to partnership, as well as recommendations for how to work together, such as assuming the best intentions, setting clear expectations and being willing to learn from others’ experiences.

hub_arrow_update-01The federal government released guidance about racial disparities in school discipline in early 2014. Federal data show black students without disabilities are more than three times as likely to be expelled or suspended compared with their white peers, the guidance says.

Anecdotal data show LGBTQ youth also have disproportionate disciplinary outcomes, the report said.

A study by the Gay Straight Alliance Network also found LGBTQ youth of color and gender-nonconforming youth report increased surveillance and policing and biased discipline in school, according to the report.

“Unfortunately, there is a dearth of large-scale quantitative research to show this phenomenon for LGBTQ people, due in part to the sensitivity of collecting this data. Nevertheless, the outcomes and experiences for this community remain pressing,” the report said.

Students who identify as both a person of color and LGBTQ are at even greater risk of entering the school-to-prison pipeline, said the report.

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