Report Uncovering Student Experiences Casts Major Doubt on District’s Claim of Progress  

The Power U Center for Social Change, in collaboration with local, state and national civil rights organizations including Advancement Project, hosted a direct action releasing a new report Miami-Dade County Public Schools: The Hidden Truth. The report gives the District failing marks on key school climate indicators including school discipline practices, student supports and reproductive health programming. The grades, resulting from an analysis of district data and student survey research, call into question District officials’ claims of significant progress on school climate.

“The adults who talk about our schools say things are getting better, but the truth is we’ve seen little to no change,” said Raechelle Scott, an 11th grader at Miami Edison Senior High School. “Students are still being suspended out-of-school and we don’t see restorative justice being implemented, despite MDCPS’ promises. For girls and those who are LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual), school can be a hostile place and they have to deal with bullying and sexual harassment without the help of counselors. All these challenges hit Black students the most and that is wrong.”

Major report findings indicate:

  • MDCPS continues to invest heavily in punitive and exclusionary school discipline practices.The District prioritizes investment in policing over student supports like restorative justice programming and plans to spend more than $23 million on policing and security in the upcoming year.
  • Students have limited access to comprehensive sexual education and are too often vulnerable to sexual harassment, assault and bullying due to the inaction of school leadership. Black girls, gender non-conforming and LGBTQIA students are particularly vulnerable and face intersectional challenges related to race and gender.
  • There is no evidence showing Student Success Centers successfully support students. Youth referred to Student Success Centers do not always receive transportation, adequate instruction, or the supports that address the reason for their referral. Student Success Centers are out-of-school suspensions by another name.
  • The lack of transparency around student discipline and Student Success Centers is alarming.The public is unable to obtain key data around silent pushout and Student Success Centers.

“What we learned first-hand from youth in the development of this report with Advancement Project is that students feel their schools spend more time punishing them than supporting them.” said James Lopez, executive director of the Power U Center for Social Change. “What students need in this moment are counselors and mental health professionals, comprehensive sex education and restorative justice programming. Not police and practices that further calcify the school-to-prison pipeline.”

The release of Miami-Dade County Public Schools: The Hidden Truth also marks the launch of the Power U Center for Social Change’s new reproductive justice campaign, centered on the report’s demands for change.

“Miami-Dade’s approach to improving school climate is not a successful model that should be replicated elsewhere in the country,” said Judith Browne Dianis, executive director of Advancement Project’s National Office. “MDCPS’ failed experiment with Success Centers again proves that we cannot expect to successfully reduce racial discipline disparities, improve school climate and address the intersectional challenges students face with exclusionary and punitive strategies. Let Miami-Dade be a cautionary tale to districts across the country of what not to do: invest millions of dollars in failed policies that thirty years of research has confirmed is exactly the wrong thing to do.”

The full report can be viewed at: http://bit.ly/2yvV2Ec.

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Power U Center for Social Change is a community-based organization who organizes to develop the leadership of Black and Brown youth and Black women in South Florida so that they may help lead the struggle for education and racial justice.

Advancement Project is a multi-racial civil rights organization. Founded by a team of veteran civil rights lawyers in 1999, Advancement Project was created to develop and inspire community-based solutions based on the same high quality legal analysis and public education campaigns that produced the landmark civil rights victories of earlier eras.