Will You Stand With Us To Keep Kids In Class and Out of Handcuffs?

Action Alert

For months now, you’ve worked alongside us to pass meaningful legislation that will be a serious blow to the school-to-prison pipeline.

And now we’re almost there. 

Right now, a Conference Committee of six legislators is meeting to reconcile two versions of the omnibus criminal justice reform bill. The version that passed the Senate (S.2200) included the necessary provisions we support from H.328/S.876, An Act decriminalizing non-violent and verbal student misconduct.

These provisions include:

  1. decriminalizing non-violent misconduct in schools by eliminating the crime of disturbing school assembly; and
  2. requiring that MOUs between schools and police departments include certain provisions clarifying that SROs should not be involved in routine disciplinary actions for non-violent school infractions; and
  3. outlining data collection methods and responsibilities.

 

We need these important provisions to be included in the final bill.

Research shows that arrests of students for non-violent behavior disproportionately affect students of color and students with disabilities, and the impact can be devastating. A student who is arrested in school is three times more likely to drop out and is subsequently more likely to go to prison, earn less income, and rely more on public benefits. And as of right now, there is no check on this practice or accountability. 

Representative Aaron Vega is sending  a joint letter with Senator Patricia Jehlen to the Conference Committee in support of at-risk students. 

Please call or email your legislators NOW and ask them to sign on to the Vega/Jehlen letter!

These are common-sense reforms that would prevent unnecessary arrests and ensure school resource officers are trained in child development, de-escalation techniques, and implicit bias. With your help, this will be a major step in keeping kids in class and out of the school-to-prison pipeline. 

The DEADLINE for having representatives and senators to sign on in support is TODAY, January 9th at 5 p.m.

Click here to find your legislators’ contact information and call TODAY!

You can find the text of the letter on our website here. Thank you for your continued support.

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Call Your Representative to Support Amendment 86 – and Help Us Dismantle the School-to-Prison Pipeline!

Action Alert

We need your help. 

Last week, the omnibus criminal justice reform bill (S.2200) passed the Senate with the provisions we support from H.328/S.876, An Act decriminalizing non-violent and verbal student misconduct.

These provisions include:

  1. decriminalizing non-violent misconduct in schools by eliminating the crime of disturbing school assembly; and
  2. requiring that MOUs between schools and police departments include certain provisions clarifying that SROs should not be involved in routine disciplinary actions for non-violent school infractions and outlining data collection methods and responsibilities.

But these life-saving provisions are not included in the House bill (H4011).

Research shows that arrests of students for non-violent behavior disproportionately affect students of color and students with disabilities, and the impact can be devastating. A student who is arrested in school is three times more likely to drop out and is subsequently more likely to go to prison, earn less income, and rely more on public benefits.

Representative Aaron Vega has filed Amendment 86 to include these critical provisions and representatives are debating amendments TODAY. 

Please take a minute NOW to call or email your representative and urge them to support Amendment 86!

If the following representatives are yours, please join us in thanking them for co-sponsoring Amendment 86!

These common-sense reforms would move schools away from unnecessary arrests and ensure school resource officers get training in child development, de-escalation techniques, and implicit bias. With your help, this will be a major step in keeping kids in class and out of the school-to-prison pipeline. 

Click here to find your representative’s contact information and call TODAY!

Thank you for your continued support.

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Criminal Justice Reform Bill Passes the Senate and Includes Important Provisions to Protect Vulnerable Youth!

Action Alert

You did it!

Your tireless efforts have paid off! After intense debate last week, the omnibus criminal justice reform bill (S.2200) passed the Senate! Key provisions we support from H.328/S.876, An Act decriminalizing non-violent and verbal student misconduct were also included in the final Senate bill, which means we are one step closer to dismantling the school-to-prison-pipeline!

Specifically, sections 34, 267, and 268 of S.2200 contain provisions:

  1. decriminalizing non-violent misconduct in schools by eliminating the crime of disturbing school assembly; and
  2. requiring that MOUs between schools and police departments include certain provisions clarifying that SROs should not be involved in routine disciplinary actions for non-violent school infractions and outlining data collection methods and responsibilities.

Like suspensions and expulsions, arrests of students for non-violent behavior disproportionately affect students of color and students with disabilities.

I want to thank you for fighting to preserve these vital sections in the final bill to keep at-risk kids safe and in school.

But it’s not over yet!

The bill has passed the Senate and we expect it to be taken up by the House the week of November 13th. Stay tuned for advocacy opportunities in the House and in the meantime, be sure to call your Senator and thank them for protecting vulnerable youth.

Click here to find your state Senator’s contact information.

Thank you for your continued support.

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BREAKING: Amendments to Criminal Justice Reform Bill Would Eliminate Provisions Decriminalizing Non-Violent Student Behavior and Providing Guidance on the Proper Role of SROs!

Action Alert

GOOD NEWS! The Senate Ways and Means Committee has released its version of the omnibus criminal justice reform bill (S.2185)! This version of the bill includes key provisions we support from H.328/S.876, An Act decriminalizing non-violent and verbal student misconduct.

Section 174 of S2185 would decriminalize non-violent misconduct in schools by eliminating the crime of disturbing school assembly.

Section 13 of S2185 would require that MOUs between schools and police departments include certain provisions clarifying the proper role of School Resource Officers, or “SROs.” Specifically, section 13:

  • includes language that clearly states that SROs should not be involved in routine disciplinary actions for non-violent school infractions;
  • implements protocols to utilize the expertise of mental health professionals in addressing the needs of students with behavioral and emotional difficulties;
  • requires SROs to dedicate professional development time to raising awareness of challenges faced by students in each officer’s school, emphasizing areas such as de-escalation techniques and implicit or unconscious bias; and
  • outlines data collection methods and responsibilities.

Like suspensions and expulsions, arrests of students for non-violent behavior disproportionately affect students of color and students with disabilities. Eliminating this practice is a crucial component of our work to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline.

But it’s not over yet!

Senator Tarr has proposed two amendments – Amendments 58 and 159 – that would ELIMINATE these provisions critical to keeping students safe. 

Amendment 58 proposes striking out Section 174 and Amendment 159 proposes striking out Section 13.

As currently written, S2185 would ensure that traditional policing techniques are used only when necessary while establishing standards and accountability for police in schools. Join us in the fight to dismantle the school to prison pipeline – contact your state Senator and urge them to oppose these amendments!

Click here to find contact information for your State Senators!

Call or email them TODAY and ask them to OPPOSE these two amendments!

This criminal justice reform bill has the potential to break down the school-to-prison-pipeline in Massachusetts, but that won’t happen without these provisions. The Senate will be debating the bill on ThursdayThat means we have only two days to make sure these provisions remain in the bill. Help us defeat Senator Tarr’s amendments and keep kids in class!

Don’t wait! Join us and call or email your Senators today to oppose Amendments 58 and 159!

Thank you for your continued support.

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MA Senate Criminal Justice Reform Bill Includes School Arrest Reforms!

Action Alert

Great news!

The criminal justice reform bill that was recently released by the Senate (S2170) includes key provisions we support from H.328/S.876, An Act decriminalizing non-violent and verbal student misconduct.

These important provisions eliminate the practice of arresting students for minor behavioral infractions and establish standards and accountability for police in schools. This is an issue that disproportionately affects students of color and students with disabilities, and is a crucial component of our work to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline.

Another important provision of these bills relates to data collection. Right now, the information and reporting on school arrests is scattered and incomplete. S2170 would require establishing systems for arrest data collection, reporting, and publication – similar to the reporting system for school suspensions.

I want to thank you for standing with us to push these bills to the front of the conversation! Your hard work will ensure that we keep kids in class where they belong.

But it’s not over yet!

We need you to call or email your state Senator and ask him/her to support these provisions in S2170. We’ve made it easy for you by providing a script that you can use below!

Click here to find contact information for your State Senator and then call or email them using the script below!


Script:

Hi, my name is ________ and I am calling to encourage Senator _______ to support comprehensive juvenile justice reform that prioritizes the wellbeing of students. Sections 13, 174, and 175 of  Senate Bill 2170, (the omnibus criminal justice reform)  support school discipline that moves away from unnecessary arrests and requires data collection and reporting of school based arrests.

  • These provisions would:
    1. eliminate the practice of arresting students for minor behavioral infractions;
    2. establish standards and accountability for police in schools; and
    3. require establishing systems for arrest data collection, reporting, and publication – similar to school suspensions.
  • These provisions are necessary because:
    • Unnecessarily arresting students ruins lives and encourages youth to drop out of school.
    • Students who drop out are more likely to go to prison, earn less income and rely more on public benefits than students who complete school.
    • Student arrests disproportionately target students of color and students with disabilities.
    • No data is currently collected or reported about school based arrests.
    • Data collection will inform us on the prevalence and reasons for arresting students.
    • Reporting school arrests would be a simple additional requirement to reporting that school districts already file with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
  • Please support a final Criminal Justice Reform bill that includes these provisions!

Join us and call or email your State Senator today!

Thank you for your continued support.

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Budget Victory! MA Senate Pushes Through Funding for Homeless Youth!

Action Alert

Thank you for standing up and speaking out in defense of homeless youth. 

You did it! Thanks to your tireless efforts, the Senate has overridden Governor Baker’s veto of funding for homeless youth! With an overwhelming vote of 35-2, the Senate restored $675,000 for housing and services for unaccompanied youth and young adults. 

Months ago, when Governor Baker eliminated line item 4000-0007 from the 2018 state budget, we pledged to not stop fighting until that funding was restored. I want to thank you for fighting with us. 

In the past few months, we have won many important legislative and budget battles that will impact low-income families and youth across the state, and none of it would have been possible without you!

Thank you for your continued support.

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MA Appleseed Joins New Mexico Appleseed to Fight Lunch Shaming

Action Alert

What is “lunch shaming?”

Lunch shaming” is a harsh disciplinary practice in which students who cannot pay their school lunch bill or have outstanding debt on their account are punished. Examples of lunch shaming include:

It’s hard to believe these draconian policies are still being used around the country in 2017. While some schools claim it is the only way to get families to pay up, these policies humiliate and stigmatize children and low-income families.

Nearly half of all school districts use lunch shaming.

Our friends at New Mexico Appleseed have been working tirelessly to challenge lunch shaming and ban it from their state, advocating for the rights of hungry children and low-income families. The central argument is, while lunch debt is a problem for schools, in no way should the children be left hungry, humiliated, and less likely to learn. Instead, school officials must work with the parents or guardians to come up with a solution and leave the children out of it.

AND IT WORKED!

Thanks to support from both parties and the fierce advocacy of New Mexico Appleseed, Gov. Susana Martinez signed the Hunger-Free Students’ Bill of Rights this past April. The law applies to all schools – public, private, or religious – that receive federal subsidies for breakfast and lunch programs.

Now the fight is going national, with bipartisan leadership unveiling federal legislation designed to outlaw lunch shaming and better ensure no student goes hungry, regardless of their ability to pay.

Join us to end lunch shaming for good!

The proposed legislation, S.1064 and H.R.2401, aims to:

  • Prohibit punishments of any kind for students short on lunch money or who have an outstanding balance on their account
  • Ban the “marking” or identifying of students who owe lunch debt
  • Prevent schools from withholding food from children
  • Encourage schools to ensure eligible children are enrolled in free or reduced-price meal programs
  • Make paying off lunch debt easier for parents and guardians through online systems
Keep humiliation tactics out of schools!

Sign your organization up to endorse this crucial federal legislation TODAY.

Massachusetts Appleseed, along with many others, has signed on to endorse bills S.1064 and H.R.2401. Lunch shaming reminds us that we have a long way to go in our schools in ensuring equal treatment for all students.

Be sure to check your email for more updates soon, and donate here to support our work at the state level in education and access to justice!

Thank you for your continued support.

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We have one last chance to save funding for homeless youth in the FY18 state budget!

Action Alert

Months ago, Governor Baker ELIMINATED line item 4000-0007 in the 2018 state budget – which allocated $675,000 in funding for homeless youth.The Governor’s reasoning? That this amount was “too small to be effective.”

While $675,000 may seem “too small” for Governor Baker, these are necessary funds that could prove life-saving for homeless youth. It could mean the difference between safety or danger, between food or hunger. Homeless youth can’t wait.

So why should we?

Join us and take action TODAY! Here’s what you can do:

  • Call or email your legislators to invite them the legislative briefing organized by the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless to restore funding for homeless youth on September 19th
  • If your legislators have already sponsored the legislative briefing, be sure to thank them for their support.
  • Attend the legislative briefing yourself and RSVP here.

We need you to stand up today and tell Governor Baker that we will not leave homeless youth behind. Be sure to forward this email to as many people as possible and spread the word!

Click here and voice your support to override the Governor’s veto and fund critical services for homeless youth!

Thanks to you and your tireless advocacy over the course of this year, we have won many important legislative and budget battles. Please join us for one last chance to make sure homeless youth receive this essential funding in the FY2018 budget.

Thank you for your continued support.

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Act Today to Support MA Appleseed’s Budget Priorities

Action Alert

The Massachusetts House of Representatives and Senate have both finalized their initial FY18 budget proposals. Now the fight moves to the Budget Conference Committee, in which six members are tasked with working through the differences between the House and Senate budget recommendations on a variety of issues. Here’s a quick reminder about where things stand for the 3 budget areas that are a priority for MA Appleseed:

Housing Courts

Thanks to Senator Spilka’s leadership, the statewide Housing Court expansion (line item 0036-0003) was included in the final Senate Budget proposal. Neighborhoods under attack from gentrification and families threatened with eviction need access to a housing court. District courts simply do not have the resources or expertise necessary to protect the 31% of Massachusetts residents currently without access. We cannot allow the recent traction gained on the housing court expansion to slip away. It is critical that the Conference Committee adopt Outside Sections 121-135 to enable the expansion of the Housing Court and $1 million in line item 0036-0003 to fund that expansion.

Civil Legal Aid

Low-income people experiencing civil legal problems are not eligible for court-appointed attorneys – they rely on civil legal aid programs. These programs are essential to the safety and stability of low-income individuals and families. Without it, low-income residents of Massachusetts will face crises in such areas as housing, employment, health care, immigration, and domestic violence. Due to a lack of funding, legal aid organizations are forced to turn away 64% of eligible people in need of help. The House and Senate both recommended $20 million in funding for MLAC (line item 0321-1600). We must ensure this vital funding is adopted by the Conference Committee and included in the legislature’s final FY18 budget.

Homeless Youth

Line item 4000-0007 funds services for unaccompanied homeless youth and young adults aged 24 and younger. The Senate budget includes $2.5 million in funding for these services, $500,000 more than the total FY17 spending and $1.96 million above the House FY18 recommendation. The Conference Committee will be in charge of reconciling that difference and deciding on a final number. Let them know that you support investing in these indispensable services for homeless youth!

The important work of these programs critical to low-income families and homeless youth can only continue if the Conference Committee provides adequate funding!

Contact the conferees directly to ask them to:

  1. Adopt Outside Sections 131-135 in the Senate budget to enable the expansion of the Housing Court and $1 million in line item 00036-0003 to fund that expansion;
  2. Include $20 million in funding for civil legal aid via the MLAC line item 0321-1600;
  3. Adopt the Senate’s higher proposed funding level of $2.5 million for services for homeless youth (line item 4000-0007). Additional funds will help to ensure that more young people can be served.

The conferees are meeting RIGHT NOW and will continue to meet throughout the month of June to finalize the Legislature’s recommendations for the 2018 fiscal year that will begin on July 1st so it is imperative that you ACT NOW!

The House conferees are:

The Senate conferees are:

Want to do more? Ask your State Representative and Senator to weigh in with the conferees in support of the housing courts, civil legal aid, and unaccompanied homeless youth TODAY!

Not sure who to call? Click here!

One call can make the difference. Please join us and stand up for justice for all and services for homeless youth.

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Good News and Bad News in the FY18 Budget

Action Alert

We’re Almost There!

The results are in! After the Massachusetts House of Representatives and Senate finalized their initial FY18 budget proposals and the Conference Committee compromised, the budget was sent to Governor Baker’s desk. He had 10 days to approve, reduce, or veto any line items he chose; here’s what he did:

Statewide Housing Court

You did it! Governor Baker approved the housing court expansion and $1 million to begin the expansion process. We encourage you to contact Governor Baker and your legislators to thank them for their support. The housing court expansion will change the lives of 2 million people across Massachusetts facing eviction, gentrification, and other housing crises. Access will no longer be determined by whether or not someone has a car, lives in rural area, or if their town simply doesn’t have a housing court. This is a huge leap forward in the fight for Access to Justice. Thank you for your persistence and hard work advocating for the housing court expansion – it paid off!

If you want to learn more about the housing court and its role in Access to Justice, click here.

Civil Legal Aid

Unfortunately, the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation line item (0321-1600) was level funded in the Conference Committee Report, but Governor Baker did not make any further cuts! MLAC is the state’s leading provider of funds for civil legal aid – yet nearly two-thirds of qualified applicants are turned away every day due to a lack of resources. While we’d hoped for better, Governor Baker recognizing the importance of civil legal aid for thousands of Massachusetts residents is an important win!

Homeless Youth

Line item 4000-0007 funds services for unaccompanied homeless youth and young adults aged 24 and younger. The Senate budget includes $2.5 million in funding for these services, $500,000 more than the total FY17 spending and $1.96 million above the House FY18 recommendation. The Conference Committee will be in charge of reconciling that difference and deciding on a final number. Let them know that you support investing in these indispensable services for homeless youth!

Now for the bad news: Governor Baker eliminated line item 4000-0007, which allocated $675,000 for supporting homeless youth. His reasoning? That this amount appropriated by the Legislature was “too small to be effective.”

Now what?

Advocates are planning to push for a veto override and supplemental funding. This is a critical moment and homeless youth cannot wait. We need you to reach out to your legislators and let them know that cutting these funds is unacceptable.

CLICK HERE to send your legislators an email urging them to override the Governor’s veto and fund critical services for homeless youth!

Thanks to you and your tireless advocacy over the course of this budget process, we have come out the other side with some important victories. Please join us for one last push and stand up for homeless youth.

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