The Special Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth is included in the FY 2013 budget as Outside Section 208 and was signed into law by Governor Patrick on July 8, 2012. The Special Commission will study and identify the many issues and barriers affecting unaccompanied homeless youth and will recommend positive policy changes and appropriate interventions. The Special Commission is tasked with examining many of the issues raised in MA Appleseed's recent policy brief, such as barriers related to mandated reporting requirements and the inability to count this mobile and invisible population of youth. The Commission will report its findings and recommendations by March 31, 2013. Massachusetts Appleseed is named a member of this Commission.
School Discipline Bill: In August 2012, the Massachusetts Legislature passed H 4332 An Act relative to student access to educational services and exclusion from school. It is Chapter 222 of the Acts of 2012. This bill focuses on keeping children in school by curbing the use of school exclusions and promotes continued academic progress by requiring schools to offer an alternative education program. MA Appleseed has been an integral part of the coalition that led this successful effort. The "Keep Kids In Class" project positions MA Appleseed at the forefront of understanding the intersection of school discipline practices, zero tolerance, and youth entering the juvenile justice system. The coalition relied on MA Appleseed's school discipline data and expertise to support its advocacy. The law enacts several key recommendations from MA Appleseed's school discipline report, Keep Kids In Class: New Approaches to School Discipline, which aim to decrease school exclusions and foster genuine educational opportunity for all children. In particular, the law requires school districts to collect and report data on school suspensions and expulsions, establishes additional notice and hearing provisions prior to suspension or expulsion, and promotes continued academic progress by creating an alternative education program.