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ACLU-MS gets $1 million to address ‘disparate’ school disciple

From Staff

The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi Foundation (ACLU-MS) received a two-year $1 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to address “excessive discipline” of African-American boys in schools.

The Kellogg Foundation and ACLU-MS say they want statewide standards for school discipline that ensure that the codes of student conduct in Mississippi’s school districts meet basic standards of fairness and common sense.

A press statement from the ACLU-MS says the grant will help the legal rights organization to take on “disparate punishment of young men of color by assessing current practices and developing a statewide model of fair school discipline practices fostering conditions for success.”

In blunt language, the ACLU-MS claimed  “extreme and destructive approaches to school discipline have devastated the students and families of Mississippi, harmed its teachers, members of law enforcement, and community members, and caused profound damage to the economic health and well-being of the state at large.”

The project, the ACLU-MS says, “aims to dismantle the systems of structural and institutional racism and bias by identifying the structures that perpetuate the current practice of disparate implementation of discipline and engage these systems to create positive and supportive institutions and pathways for young men of color.”

Jennifer Riley-Collins, executive director of the ACLU-MS, said the $1 million go toward developing and establishing a  “community based model systems approach to address school discipline and criminalization of young men of color.”

The ACLU-MS says Mississippi’s black students are hit the hardest by harsh discipline practices and are three times more likely to receive an out-of-school suspension than their white peers. The disparity is even greater in some school districts, the legal rights organization says.

Successful schools do not suspend, expel, and refer large numbers of students to law enforcement, the ACLU-MS says.  “ Such harsh and extreme punishment works at cross-purposes with the state’s school improvement efforts and educators’ efforts to promote teaching and learning in healthy and productive ways,” the organization adds.

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