Wednesday, October 19, 2011

New Organization Trains Community Members to Advocate for Local Youth

From Our Friends at Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana:
SUFEO! Trains Legal Advocates: New Orleans Recovery School District Out of School Suspension Rates Surpass National Averages

On Friday, September 16, 2011, Stand Up for Each Other! (SUFEO!) trained 40 students from Tulane University Law School, Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, members of Young Adults Striving for Success (YASS), community members, and former teachers to become youth advocates. Under the legal supervision of the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana (JJPL), these advocates are prepared to directly represent public and charter school students in suspension appeals and expulsion hearings. Additionally, advocates will outreach to the community, work collaboratively with school administrators and teachers and educate students and parents about their rights.

SUFEO!, founded in September 2010, is a collaboration of JJPL, law students from Loyola University New Orleans and Tulane University and YASS that has stepped up to help kids stay in school. SUFEO! addresses the disproportionate impact of suspensions and expulsions on students by teaching youth ways to exercise their statutory right to administrative hearings. Through SUFEO!, law students, young adults, and parents learn how the juvenile administrative hearing process and student representation work within the school system. This collaboration presents a great opportunity for law and pre-law students interested in trial, advocacy and public interest work to serve the community.

Currently, rates of suspension and expulsion in Louisiana schools are several times the national average. According to "Pushed Out: Harsh Discipline in Louisiana Schools Denies the Right to Education", Louisiana's expulsion rate is five times the national rate, more than 18,000 middle and high school students drop out each year, and public schools in the state dole out over 300,000 out-of-school suspensions every year. In at least ten schools in New Orleans, the out of schools suspension rate during the 2009-2010 school year exceeded 30%. Moreover, the overuse of harsh discipline disproportionately affects some Louisiana school children over others. African American students make up 44% of the statewide public school population, but 68% of suspensions and 72.5% of expulsions.

Schools with the highest rates of suspension and expulsion are overwhelmingly under-resourced, overcrowded and attended by low-income students of color. Many of these students are not receiving the services they are entitled to under the law. When students are suspended or expelled they are not allowed to make up the work they miss or receive grades for the work that they miss, which may lead to students being held back and eventually, dropping out of school. Youth who are suspended, expelled or pushed out of school are more likely to end up in the juvenile justice system, a journey which is aptly called the School to Prison Pipeline. SUFEO! is our contribution in combating the pipeline.

To reach a member of SUFEO!, contact our hotline at 504-410-KIDS. We return calls within 24 hours to youth, parents, as well as respond to other inquiries.

Photo above from Young Adults Striving for Success.

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