By Harold Jordan, Community Organizer, ACLU of Pennsylvania
On April 11, 2014, the School Discipline Advocacy Service (SDAS) held a symposium, “Fairness and Accountability in School Discipline: Using the Dignity in Schools Campaign’s Model Code to Improve School Climate in Philadelphia’s Charter Schools.” I was one of the featured speakers. SDAS is a coalition of law students who advocate for Philadelphia students facing suspension, transfer, or expulsions, both in the school district and in charter schools.
My presentation focused on how to achieve fairness and accountability in charter school discipline. Charters are privately-managed, but publically-funded schools that are run independently of the regular school system. This feature makes public accountability more challenging, especially in the areas of student discipline and student placement. I explained that charters are not exempt from the Constitution, some state education laws, and the federal school discipline guidance.
Other featured speakers were Matt Cregor of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice (Boston) and David Lapp of the Education Law Center of Pennsylvania. The presentations were followed by a community panel of charter school administrators, student groups, and teacher activists organizing on the ground to effect change. Some 100 persons participated in the symposium.