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(Washington) – Across the country, an alarming number of students are suspended, expelled and even arrested for minor or trivial offenses. Instead of being sent to school guidance counselors for schoolyard fights or talking back to teachers, young people are increasingly pushed into police stations, courtrooms and juvenile detention centers. Advancement Project has been invited to testify at a hearing December 12 before the U.S. Senate.  Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) will chair the hearing, titled “Ending the School to Prison” pipeline. More than 350 students, parents, civil rights advocates and other community leaders are expected to attend the hearing.

Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of Advancement Project and a pioneer of the movement to end the school to prison pipeline, will provide expert testimony before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights. Dianis will detail how the school-to-prison pipeline harms students and such practices are shown to be ineffective at improving school achievement and safety, and a waste of taxpayer resources.

“Overly harsh discipline policies lead to high dropout rates, lower academic achievement, and students not getting the help they need,” said Advancement Project’s Dianis, who notes that Black and Latino students are punished more harshly than White youth for the same minor infractions. “It’s time for common-sense discipline that keeps kids in school and on a pathway to a career or college, not prison.”

Other witnesses include former Chicago Public School student Edward Ward, the Honorable Judge Steven Teske of the Clayton County Juvenile Court, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, the Honorable Deborah Delisle, Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education, Melodee Hanes, Acting Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency and Andrew Coulson from the Cato Institute.

In addition to these speakers, youth representing a number of Advancement Project partner organizations, including Miami-based Power U Center for Social Change, Voices for Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE), and Youth United for Change (YUC) in Philadelphia, will add written accounts of their experiences in high-security schools with extreme discipline policies to the record.

The congressional hearing comes less than two months after the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Meridian, Mississippi officials for systematically incarcerating African-American children. Federal investigators found that Meridian students were criminalized – handcuffed and arrested, and locked up for days at a time without a probable cause hearing – for violations such as wearing the wrong color socks, tardiness, using vulgar language and going to the bathroom without permission.