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.
The Georgia Appleseed Center for Law and Justice is pushing for some major changes in how discipline is doled out in Georgia’s public schools. The recommendations come on the heels of the Atlanta-based non-profit organization’s release last month of its final student discipline report titled Effective School Discipline: Keeping Kids in Class. The first phase of the report featured an analysis of discipline reports from a cross-section of school districts. The final report features a more in-depth data analysis and interviews with representatives from the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) district and school personnel and other stakeholders. Surveys were also distributed to parents, students and teachers at Parent Teacher Associations and other community organizations statewide.
Kids are still being paddled in public schools in 20 states, including Georgia and African American students and children with disabilities are twice as likely to get a spanking. That’s according to Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) who brought the nationwide “Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools Act” before Congress last year. Elementary school children are also more likely to get paddled than high school kids. New attention on the issue comes from Texas. Last month an advocacy group called The Hitting Stops Here rallied against corporal punishment in Texas public schools, according to KETK-TV.
School boards across the country are protesting federal bullying policy. The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is challenging the U.S. Department of Education on the federal interpretation of bullying as a civil rights violation. As JJIE reported in October, the Department sent a 10-page letter warning schools to comply with federal rules to prevent bullying and harassment. It also said student bullying may violate anti-discrimination laws. The letter sent to schools nationwide said: “When…harassment is based on race, color, national origin, sex, or disability, it violates the civil rights laws that [the Office for Civil Rights] enforces.”
NSBA sent a letter Tuesday to Charlie Rose, General Counsel for the Department of Education, urging the Department to clarify it’s definition of bullying and harassment as a civil rights violation.
Low graduation rates and a teen crime spree in Atlanta brought more than 100 community leaders and concerned citizens together for the Strengthening Families and Communities Summit Thursday. “We need to give love and support to these kids and educate them that anything is possible,” said Evelyn Wynn-Dixon, Mayor of Riverdale, Ga. She was part of a town hall meeting and her words became a theme for the day. Pamela Perkins, ICM Coordinator of the Interfaith Children’s Movement, led the School Dropout Prevention workshop, where she and other attendees got candid about the problems.
“This has to start with community support,” Perkins said. “We have got to come together and make a cohesive effort to help these children succeed in school and graduate.”
The Georgia Department of Education reports the state graduation rate at 75.4 percent.
More than 28,500 students were spanked as a form of discipline in Georgia public schools last year. The latest annual report is out from the Georgia Department of Education called Counts of Discipline Actions. It reveals that corporal punishment was more prevalent in rural counties and in the southern parts of the state. Laurens County led the state with more than 2,400 students who got paddled. Randolph County was second, with almost 1600 students getting corporal punishment in 2009.