A year-long research and reporting project on equity in education in Georgia schools will frame an upcoming public discussion for professionals and families in Atlanta. “Research has found children of color, poor children and children with learning disabilities tend to be disciplined more harshly in public schools,” said Chandra Thomas Whitfield, host of the forum. That’s one of her findings at the end of a year of her work as a Soros Justice Fellow. The panelists — most of whom she has interviewed in her years of work as a journalist — will discuss this harsher punishment of certain children, then what happens when students are put into so-called alternative schools. She defines those as schools where children have been put out of a traditional setting for a discipline or academic problem.
Georgia’s long-awaited Juvenile Code rewrite— the first in four decades — is inching closer to completion. Some key stakeholders involved in shaping the legislation are scheduled to meet Friday afternoon to hammer out more details in Senate Bill 127, also known as the Child Protection and Public Safety Act. Many of the issues slated for discussion were raised at a Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC) hearing at the state capitol Monday. “We’ve had a positive start to the session and this hearing is just a part of finishing up the vetting of this bill,” said Sharon Hill, executive director of the Georgia Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, a non-profit helping to lead the rewrite effort. “Today was a good day.
The introduction of a long-awaited juvenile code rewrite in the state Senate earlier in the day added to the celebratory mood of an evening reception held in honor of Governor Nathan Deal’s nine newly appointed directors of child-focused state agencies. Many child advocacy organizations turned out for the event hosted by Voices for Georgia’s Children. The Blue Room at the Georgia Freight Depot was all abuzz with the news that Sen. Bill Hamrick’s (R-30) SB 127 was likely headed to a Judiciary Committee hearing, possibly as soon as next week. “We are thrilled to know that it has been introduced,” said Emory University’s Barton Child Law and Policy Center Policy Director Kirsten Widner. The organization was actively involved in drafting the legislation.
A growing number of schools suspend over 50% of their racial and ethnic students in a given year, according to a Southern Poverty Law Center study. The study, called Suspended Education: Urban Middle Schools in Crisis, found that zero tolerance policies in schools have led to suspension being overused as a disciplinary tool, especially for kids of color. This corresponds with the Georgia Appleseed Center for Law and Justice’s public school discipline study across the state, which is underway right now. As JJIE.org reported Friday, Georgia Appleseed is surveying parents and kids in Phase II of its study on school discipline methods in public schools. An early version of the study, called Effective School Discipline: Keeping Kids in Class, showed a high number of minority kids being punished by out-of-school suspension, which adversely affected their success in school.
The clock is ticking for the Georgia Appleseed Center for Law and Justice. Administrators for the Atlanta-based public interest law non-profit are hoping to wrap up the second phase of its Effective School Discipline: Keeping Kids in Class report by Dec. 15.
Despite the looming deadline pressure, the report’s primary author, Rob Rhodes, took time out Thursday to share phase one of the study results with community stakeholders attending the 2010 Georgia Truancy and Delinquency Prevention Conference. The three-day event hosted by the Truancy Intervention Project (TIP) wrapping up today in Marietta, is the non-profit truancy prevention agency’s first-ever statewide conference. Presenters at the Governor’s Office for Children and Families funded conference have included TIP co-founder and former Fulton County Juvenile Court Chief Judge Glenda Hatchett and Judge Michael Key, president of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges.