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Earlier this month marked Joint Rule 10 Day, the deadline for legislative committees to take action on bills and a pivotal moment as we learn which of our legislative priorities have a chance to get passed this session. Four outcomes are possible for each bill:

  • Reported out favorably: The bill advances in the legislative process.
  • Sent to study: The bill is tabled and will not move forward this legislative session.
  • Reported out unfavorably: The bill receives a negative vote and will not move forward this legislative session.
  • Deadline extension: The committee gives itself more time to consider the bill and will make a decision later in the session, ultimately landing on one of the three previous outcomes.

Join us as we dive into the results of Joint Rule 10 Day, exploring where some of our priority bills have landed and unpacking what this means for our advocacy over the next few months.

The Good News

The Access to Counsel Bill was reported out favorably, a major milestone in the fight to ensure low-income residents facing eviction have access to legal resources and assistance! With Governor Healey including a line item to fund Access to Counsel in her proposed FY25 budget, this is an opportunity to push for the line item to be passed alongside the more comprehensive bill.

The Education Committee gave a favorable report to the Young Student Exclusion Ban Act, signaling continued support for this bill to address long-standing inequities and opportunity gaps in education. The early years of school are an essential time when children build their educational foundation and reading skills. Alongside our Chapter 222 School Discipline Coalition partners, we’ve been leading the charge on this initiative to keep Massachusetts’ youngest children in class where they are safe, supported, and available to learn.

The Education Committee also favorably reported out the School Interpreter Bill. Demonstrating the important intersection between language access and educational justice, this legislation would ensure families are provided with competent interpretation at school so limited English proficient parents can fully participate in and make informed decisions about their child’s education.

The Everyone Needs ID Bill received a favorable report from the Joint Committee on Transportation, bringing us another step closer to removing barriers that prevent youth experiencing homelessness from obtaining state ID! With state ID necessary to accomplish a host of everyday tasks and access services, this bill can help break the cycle of poverty and upheaval that too many young people find themselves trapped in.

And in exciting news, two of our first-time bills also received favorable reports!

  • The passage of the CROWN Act back in 2022 banned race-based hair discrimination, helping prevent the criminalization of students of color. A bill we worked with Rep. Fluker Oakley and Sen. Gomez to file, which would ban suspension or expulsion for violations of rules relating to dress and grooming, received a favorable report. This legislation would build on the progress made by the CROWN Act, further disrupting the over-policing that Black and brown girls endure in school and ensuring Massachusetts classrooms are welcoming and inclusive spaces where all students can succeed.
  • Underage youth may be experiencing homelessness alone and unable to seek their parents’ consent on matters for a number of reasons, such as abuse or family conflict over sexual orientation and gender identity. H.192/S.94, filed by Rep. Khan and Sen. Gomez, recognizes this reality and would ensure those between the ages of 15 and 18 years old can provide consent for themselves to access supportive services and meet their immediate survival needs. 

The Delayed News

The following bills received deadline extensions, giving committees more time to consider them before they make their final decisions. It also gives us and our fellow advocates a chance to build more support, answer legislators’ questions, and convince lawmakers to report them favorably.  

Our 2022 report, “I Just Want to Learn,” highlighted how a lack of diversity among teaching staff can contribute to students of color feeling disconnected, uncomfortable, and fearful of judgement at school. H.549/S.311 would help increase racial and ethnic diversity among school staff, which research shows can lead to direct improvements in educational outcomes for Black and brown students. The deadline has been extended to Friday, March 15.

Good policy starts with good data, and H.454/S.249 would require the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to publish student-specific education data in a way that can be easily cross-tabulated. Critically, this would enable educators, advocates, parents, students, organizers, and policymakers to better identify disparities and inequitable treatment. The deadline has been extended to Friday, March 15.

The foster care-to-homelessness pipeline is well-established – as much as half of Massachusetts’ youth homelessness population is the result of young people emerging from the child welfare system without support. H.157/S.65 would help disrupt this phenomenon by prohibiting the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families from taking foster children’s Social Security benefits for the state’s General Fund, thereby providing youth with greater financial independence as they age out of the system. The deadline has been extended to Thursday, May 2.

The Bad News

Now for the disappointments. The following bills were “sent to study” – essentially ensuring no further action on them this session, but leaving the door open to refile them in future years.

An Act to Create Access to Justice aimed to fill a gap in existing civil rights law by recognizing that when policies have a discriminatory impact – intended or not – Massachusetts residents must be able to take legal action to enforce their rights. The potential impact of this bill is broad and would affect environmental injustices, lack of language access services, the school-to-prison pipeline, lack of sufficient special education services, inadequate prison conditions for certain populations, and more.

An Act Relative to the Location of School Resource Officers recognized the research showing that police presence has no positive effect on school safety and would have required school resource officers be stationed off school grounds. Read more about this issue on our blog.

What Now?

We know when we lay out an ambitious legislative agenda that not everything is going to make it across the finish line. Grappling with that disappointment is a big part of this work, especially when we’re fighting for commonsense policy changes that address serious needs in our communities.

For bills sent to study – we regroup with our coalition partners. Do we want to refile the bill? Make any changes? Do our legislative sponsors have any feedback from the State House side? We map out what we can do in the meantime, whether that’s conducting deeper policy research or mobilizing in more communities, so we’re ready to hit the ground running next session.

As for the bills that did make it through: We keep going! Getting past Joint Rule 10 Day is a moment to celebrate but until the legislation is on Governor Healey’s desk, ready to be signed, our work is not done. Join MA Appleseed’s mailing list and follow us on Facebook, X (Twitter), and Instagram to stay updated on opportunities to take action in the coming months!

 

 

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By Asia Foland

Contaminated rooms, unbearable class temperatures, and… metal detectors? Boston Public Schools are still working to meet students’ needs. Police are not going to help.

In June of 2022, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, former BPS superintendent Brenda Cassellius, chair of the Boston School Committee Jeri Robinson, and Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Commissioner Jeff Riley signed the “Systemic Improvement Plan” (SIP) targeting the district’s most urgent problems: among them late buses, failures to equitably serve students with disabilities, and deteriorating facilities.

Last month during a state education board meeting, DESE commissioner Riley called Boston’s progress on implementing this plan “incomplete” (2). He noted empty staff positions across the district, including leaders for the multilingual education office, a “coordinator of problem resolution” to address school safety and parent concerns, and senior staffers for special education (2,3).

More than half of Boston’s schools were built before World War II and since 2007, only four projects for new renovations and schools – out of three dozen – have been approved (1). And BPS has not yet renovated school bathroom facilities throughout the city, despite pledging to do so under the SIP (2). The consequences of this disrepair are well-known: oppressively hot classroom temperatures, crumbling walls and ceilings, and exposure to environmental contaminants.

And yet, amid BPS’s mounting public and legal obligations, how have certain Boston leaders responded?

With calls for police.

Though BPS removed police from schools in 2021, four Boston city councilors published a public letter this past January urging Mayor Wu to reinstate police and metal detectors in schools (4). In their letter, the city counselors — Erin Murphy, Michael Flaherty, Ed Flynn, and Frank Baker — declared the need for these security measures despite acknowledging the public’s “differing opinions” surrounding their use.

But this isn’t a matter of “differing opinions.” 

Visible and physical security measures in schools have been overwhelmingly discredited. According to a report by Citizens for Juvenile Justice, an analysis of 15 years of metal detectors in schools came up with “insufficient evidence that their use decreased crime or violence in schools,” instead finding “their presence made students feel less safe” (5).  

Yet in their letter, Boston City Councilors labeled metal detectors “non-invasive.” This is far from reality: for those forced to walk through them every morning before they can learn, metal detectors are invasive – physically and psychologically. And when we make our schools feel like prisons, our children feel less secure. 

Police presence also has no positive impact on school safety outcomes, according to a meta-analysis of 12 studies done by the WestEd Justice & Prevention Research Center (6). Instead, Black and brown students are disproportionately targeted within their schools, specifically for low-level offenses that in no way require law enforcement (7). In a district where students of color make up 85% of student enrollment, placing police in schools would detrimentally diminish an encouraging learning environment.  

But there is another path Boston can take. Evidence-based approaches, centered around restorative justice and preventive measures, have been proven to reduce student arrests and foster a safe learning space. These include conflict resolution, personal reflection, community reconciliation, and more. And they’re not a new phenomenon: when Denver Public Schools implemented restorative practices in 2011, suspension rates decreased by 44% (8). 

These strategies would relieve our city councilors’ safety concerns by identifying the underlying causes of conflict instead of their visible outcomes. As Leon Smith, Executive Director of Citizens for Juvenile Justice, remarked, “It would be unfortunate to see Boston move in a regressive way, doubling down on approaches that research shows are not effective rather than shifting resources to approaches shown to both address student need and improve school safety and climate” (9).  

Fundamentally, not only does law enforcement ineffectively ensure school safety compared to restorative action, but it also fails to address the urgent dangers posed by Boston’s declining facilities. Police officers cannot protect students from exposure to asbestos or lead in the neglected buildings they patrol. Police officers cannot ventilate classrooms or keep them within tolerable temperatures. Students deserve real safety at school – not just the illusion of it. And with such blatant neglect on display, it would be outrageous to funnel crucial funding and resources toward failed law enforcement measures. 

To their credit, Boston has made recent progress in meeting their students’ needs. But that does not mean we cannot hold them accountable. This moment is crucial for Boston Public Schools, and we must be diligent. Using reactionary force does not ensure student safety in schools. And when the district is still struggling to serve all students, allocating time and resources toward ineffective discipline would only set them back. It’s time for Boston leaders to expand their definition of school safety and support investments that genuinely address our students’ needs.

 

Sources:

  1. Massachusetts spends thousands more on school construction aid for white students than for students of color, https://www.bostonglobe.com/2023/05/27/metro/massachusetts-school-construction-aid/
  2. One year into school improvement plan, state official grades Boston’s progress ‘incomplete’: https://www.wbur.org/news/2023/06/27/boston-school-improvement-plan-one-year-later-progress-update
  3. Another year, another incomplete grade for Boston Public Schools: https://www.bostonglobe.com/2023/07/06/opinion/boston-public-schools-jeff-riley-blistering-criticism/
  4. https://twitter.com/ErinforBoston/status/1611476972076507136
  5. Mowen, Thomas and Freng, Adrienne. “Is More Necessarily Better? School Security and Perceptions of Safety among Students and Parents in the United States”. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7205221/
  6. Stern, A., & Petrosino, A. (2018). What do we know about the effects of school-based law enforcement on school safety? San Francisco, CA: WestEd. https://www.wested.org/ resources/effects-of-school-based-law-enforcement-on-school-safety
  7. Thurau, L. and Wald, J. Controlling Partners: When Law Enforcement Meets Discipline in Public Schools, 54 N.Y.L. Sch. L. Rev. 977 (2009-2010). https://digitalcommons.nyls.edu/ nyls_law_review/vol54/iss4/5/ 
  8. Cregor, Matt and Damon T. Hewitt. “Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline: A Survey from the Field.” (2011).
  9. Boston Public Schools quietly negotiating with city police to formalize relationship: https://www.bostonglobe.com/2023/02/16/metro/boston-public-schools-quietly-negotiating-with-city-police-formalize-relationship/

 

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