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RespectAbility Takes Stand Against Disproportionate Use of School Discipline as Substitute for Good Teaching

RespectAbility Submits Testimony to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on the School-to-Prison Pipeline: Intersections of Students of Color with Disabilities

Washington, D.C., Jan. 17 – RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities, submitted testimony to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in strong support of ending the disproportionate, unjust and counterproductive use of suspensions and expulsions for children with disabilities and students of color.

“The continued use of these tools of exclusion worsens educational outcomes and decreases safety for all students,” RespectAbility’s President, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, wrote. RespectAbility advocates for the 1-in-5 Americans who have a physical, intellectual, sensory, learning, attention, mental health or other disability. This includes six million students with diagnosed disabilities who are enrolled in America’s public schools.

According to the U.S. Census, there are:

  • 56 million people with disabilities in the United States, and 22 million of them are working age. Out of that number, 1.2 million are between the ages of 16 and 20.
  • There are six million students with disabilities receiving services under the counted under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
  • There are 1,107,606 African American/black students with disabilities enrolled in America’s public schools.
  • Likewise, there are 1,531,699 Latino students with disabilities in our schools today.
  • Overall, only 65 percent of students with disabilities graduate high school compared to 84 percent of students without disabilities.
  • Similarly, only 57 percent of black students with disabilities graduate high school compared to 76 percent of black students without disabilities.
  • Only 59 percent of Latino students with disabilities graduate high school, compared to 79 percent of Latino students without a disability.

Full testimony can be found as a PDF on our website and its companion PowerPoint, also linked on our website.

Key Areas of Focus:

  1. The issue of suspensions alone is not enough.
  2. Competency and capacity of staff.
  3. The larger issue of absenteeism is critical.
  4. Resources and mentoring for parents of children with disabilities – including those who are Spanish speakers.
  5. High expectations for education, jobs and independence for youth with disabilities.
  6. Apprenticeships and school to work transitions.
  7. Disability impacts every aspect of the criminal justice system – from the school-to-prison pipeline to returning citizens.
text in graphic: Disability and Criminal Justice Reform Keys to Success

Disability and Criminal Justice Reform Keys to Success

RespectAbility also submitted its landmark report, Disability & Criminal Justice Reform: Keys to Success. That report focuses on solutions to the school-to-prison pipeline, plus issues for people with disabilities who already are justice-involved. Today there are at least 750,000 people with known disabilities behind bars in our nation. The majority did not complete high school, lack literacy and are people of color.

For more information, please contact Philip Kahn Pauli at [email protected].

Meet the Author

Philip Pauli

Philip Kahn-Pauli is the Policy and Practices Director of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities. He works with state leaders to develop solutions for youth with disabilities, support job seekers with disabilities and open pathways into the workforce. To reach him, email [email protected]

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