Lee County NAACP’s Year of Racial Equity a Success

Fort Myers, F.L. — The School District of Lee County and the Lee County, Florida Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) signed an agreement today to settle a civil rights complaint the NAACP filed in 2017.

“I am extremely pleased to have signed this agreement,” said Superintendent Dr. Greg Adkins. “The District is committed to every student reaching their potential.  We have worked hard to demonstrate our commitment to diversity, fair discipline and educational success.  It has been a truly positive experience to work with the NAACP on this agreement and we look forward to seeing our students succeed.”

The agreement calls on the District to continue six current practices:

  • Fund the Office of Diversity and Inclusion
  • Use restorative practices and alternatives to suspension
  • Provide ongoing training about structural racism, implicit bias and disparities
  • Review student disciplinary processes and gather community input
  • Allocate resources in a manner that allows schools that are in the most need to receive additional funding
  • Data already collected on referrals for discipline, referrals to law enforcement and expulsions will now be shared with other schools

The agreement calls on the District to add to new practices:

  • Convey quarterly community forums and public conversations
  • Provide training on the appropriate use and engagement of School Resource Officers

In return for continuing or adopting these practices the NAACP will drop the civil rights complaint filed with the US Department of Education in September 2017.  The complaint alleged black students were disciplined disproportionately to white students and disproportionately held back, dropping out or not graduating.

“Today’s agreement is not the end of the story, but rather the beginning of a new chapter,” said James Muwakkil, President of the Lee County NAACP. “We believe the steps outlined in this resolution will set a much needed foundation as we build towards racial equity in our schools. There is much work to be done. We are pleased now to have the school system as an ally in the effort to make sure students of color do not get left behind.”

Information about the community forums required under the agreement will be released as those quarterly events are scheduled.  Protocols and training for staff use of the SRO will also now be developed and implemented.  The practices already in place will continue to be used and updated as necessary.

To find a signed copy of the agreement, click here.

Mother of Niecey Fennell Speaks Out on Critical Safety Issues at Durham Detention Center


Durham, N.C.
— Attorneys for the family of Uniece “Niecey” Fennell, who was found deceased, hanging in the Durham County Detention Facility (DCDF) in March 2017, have again called upon the Durham County Board of Commissioners to address critical safety issues at the facility in the county’s 2018-19 fiscal budget. Adding to remarks made at a public comment period last week, attorneys at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice released a video of Julia Graves, Niecey’s mother, recounting her experience and the devastation her daughter’s death caused to her family.

Fennell was 16 years old when she was placed in DCDF with adult detainees. Durham County remains one of a small number of jurisdictions in America that continues to house children with adult detainees. It is also one of very few jurisdictions nationwide to have had a child die in its detention facility. The county’s practice of co-housing children and adults directly conflicts with standards adopted by Congress in 2003 with the passage of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). PREA requires total sight and sound separation of adults and children in detention facilities. According to a study by the Equal Justice Institute, children housed with adults are 36 times more likely to commit suicide in adult facilities than when housed in juvenile facilities.

On Monday, June 11, 2018, SCSJ attorneys Ian Mance and Whitley Carpenter spoke on behalf of Julia Graves, Niecey Fennell’s mother, at a public meeting of the Durham County Commissioners. Mance and Carpenter highlighted the County’s slow response to addressing known hanging hazards in the jail, as well as its continued failure to meet critical federal standards designed to ensure the safety of child detainees. In the last 20 years, 22 people have died in the Durham County Detention Facility, the majority of them a result of suicide.

SCSJ continues to advocate that children charged as adults in Durham County need to have their own physical space where they are not subject to threats and bullying from adult detainees.

To view the County Board of Commissioners video featuring the statements made by SCSJ (28:18 to 33:20), a local teacher (33:45 to 33:25), and a student from Niecey’s high school (35:40 to 37:15), click the following link: http://durhamcounty.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=3&clip_id=1070

For the full written statement made by SCSJ at the meeting, click the following link: https://www.southerncoalition.org/statement-june-11-durham-county-board-commissioners-meeting/

The State of Discipline in NC Schools

Highlights from The 2018 State of Discipline Report

The data analysis from the Youth Justice Project found that:

  • Although out-of-school suspension is down, students are still too often removed from class for disciplinary reasons.
  • Tens of thousands of young children were suspended last school year.
  • Black students were more likely to be suspended than white students.
  • There is not enough information about the impact of School Resource Officers.

While some individual schools and districts are taking steps to address the issues outlined in the report, the Youth Justice Project calls for immediate and bold action at the state level. The report outlines several policy recommendations that include:

  • banning out-of-school suspensions for early grades,
  • mandating data collection and reporting for school-based interactions with police, and;
  • prioritizing racially equitable discipline policies.

The full report can be found at southerncoalition.org/sodreport2018.

Interactive report below:

Dr. Kareem Crayton Hired as Interim Director for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice

DURHAM, N.C. – The Board of Directors for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ) has hired Kareem Crayton, J.D., Ph.D. to serve as the interim executive director as the organization conducts a search for a full-time director.  Anita Earls, the organization’s current executive director and founder, is stepping down from her position at the end of the year to run for a seat on the Supreme Court of North Carolina.

 

Dr. Crayton’s employment with the civil rights organization will start on January 1, 2018.

 

“We are incredibly fortunate to have Dr. Kareem Crayton be a part of this transition,” said Farad Ali, Chair of SCSJ’s Board of Directors.  “In the 10 years since our founding, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice has become one of the premier civil rights organizations in our country.  We are committed to moving forward, and Dr. Crayton is the right person to help us do just that.”

 

Dr. Crayton is an internationally respected scholar, expert, and consultant whose work centers on the intersection of law, politics, and race. He is the only academic in the United States in law and political science whose primary work explores the relationship between race and politics in representative institutions. A native of Montgomery, Alabama, Crayton is a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard College and holds a Ph.D. in Political Science as well as a law degree from Stanford University.  Aside from managing a consulting firm, Dr. Crayton has most recently served on the faculty of Vanderbilt University Law School.

 

“The  Southern Coalition for Social Justice is vital to defending the civil rights of marginalized communities in the South,” said Dr. Kareem Crayton.  “Having worked with this organization over the years as a partner, I know the key role SCSJ plays in making our governing institutions more accountable and responsive.  I am therefore excited to lead the board, staff, and our community partners through this phase and to make sure we continue this important work well into the future.”

 

Anita Earls, SCSJ’s current director, praised the board’s decision. “Kareem brings great insight to our organization. His deep knowledge of issues related to race, politics, and the South will be an incredible asset to the coalition,” said Earls.  “I am comforted to know that Dr. Crayton will be taking charge of the organization I founded and love.”

 

“There is no way that SCSJ would have accomplished everything we have without the leadership of Anita Earls.  We are thankful for and will certainly miss her leadership,” said Farad Ali.   “Our work moves forward, though.  We will continue to challenge unconstitutional racial and partisan gerrymandering that disenfranchises people and communities of color.  We will persist in our advocacy for reforming the criminal justice system, ending the school-to-prison pipeline, and creating fairer and safer schools for our youth.

 

Lee County NAACP Meets with School Superintendent

FORT MYERS, FL. – Representatives from the Lee County NAACP and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ) met with Lee County School Superintendent Dr. Greg Adkins on December 6 to discuss racial equity concerns.  

The NAACP filed a complaint against the school system with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights in September pointing out that students of color make up the fast-growing majority of the school district and are:

  • more likely than white students to be suspended or expelled,
  • more likely to be referred to law enforcement for misbehavior in school,
  • more likely to be removed from the classroom and placed in alternative education programs,
  • more likely to be designated as having a disability,
  • more likely to be retained or drop out,
  • less likely to be enrolled in gifted programs, and
  • less likely to graduate.

At the meeting, community members from the NAACP and SCSJ offered a set of recommendations that Dr. Adkins can implement to address the racially discriminatory outcomes present in the school system.

SCSJ’s Ricky Watson, co-director of the Youth Justice Project, spoke with WINK News after the meeting to explain the complaint and why the Lee County School system must take action:

The full complaint filed by the Lee County NAACP with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights can be found at http://bit.ly/CivilRightsComplaint.

 

New Report: NC Juvenile Justice System Faces Major Challenges

Durham, N.C. — A report released today from the Youth Justice Project finds that the juvenile justice system is falling short for over 12,000 impacted children. Despite major policy advances like Raise the Age in 2017, North Carolina has a long way to go to ensure that all young people, especially youth of color, are treated fairly and equitably in our juvenile justice system.

The report highlights five major barriers facing North Carolina’s juvenile system and their solutions. These barriers include:

  • developmentally inappropriate limits on juvenile court jurisdiction,
  • demographic and geographic disparities,
  • inadequate representation in juvenile court,
  • lifelong collateral consequences stemming from juvenile court involvement, and
  • punitive school policies and practices that push students into the court system.

“While we are excited that North Carolina will soon end the practice of prosecuting all 16- and 17-year-olds as adults, we must continue to push for evidence-based policies that will help all kids,” said Peggy Nicholson, co-director of the Youth Justice Project. “For example, young people – particularly youth of color – are all too often referred to our court system for behaviors that historically have been left out of the courts and could be more effectively addressed through other means.”

North Carolina could dramatically improve its juvenile justice system by increasing the minimum age of juvenile court jurisdiction from six to ten years old. Furthermore, school systems can reduce school suspensions, court referrals, and the associated identity disparities through the implementation of restorative justice practices and racial equity trainings. Additionally, increases in funding and specialization of attorneys representing children would ensure young people have adequate representation across the state when they are court-involved.

“We can dramatically improve the juvenile justice system here in North Carolina through a series of common sense policy changes that give our kids the opportunities they need while keeping our communities safe. We strongly encourage policymakers to review and implement these recommendations in order to ensure our young people are receiving the care they need,” said Ricky Watson, co-director of the Youth Justice Project.

Link to the Full Report: http://youthjusticenc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/FINAL-Putting-Justice-in-Juvenile-System-10.5.17.pdf

Link to the Fact Sheet: http://youthjusticenc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Handout-Juvenile-System-Report-Updates-10.26.17.pdf