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Tag Archive: Student Bill of Rights

  1. Pittsburgh Public Schools Board adopts parts of Student Bill of Rights

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    Pittsburgh Public Schools’ students have led the call for change. TeenBloc, A+ Schools’ student-led group, drafted the Student Bill of Rights to address the most pressing concerns the district faces. The PPS Board recently adopted pieces of the Bill in their revised student code, marking a big success for teen advocacy in Pittsburgh.

     A+ Schools, Pittsburgh’s advocate for equity and excellence in public education, surveyed over 400 high school juniors and 26 principals, counselors, and teachers in Pittsburgh’s nine public secondary schools. The subsequently published School Works Report highlighted that school climate, positive discipline practices, and staff instability are concerns in high poverty schools. 

    The Student Bill of Rights called for change in those areas of school policy, and the students leading the effort are proud that their opinions have been considered.

    Board President Thomas Sumpter recognized that the students were the true catalysts for change. “Sometimes the best information you get comes from the student. They’re involved, they’re on the ground, they’re right in there experiencing what’s happening. We can set policies but in terms of their impact, you get a true picture coming from the students,” Sumpter stated. 

    The district pledges to eliminate zero-tolerance policies, infractions for which out-of-school suspension is automatic. Reforming this area of the disciplinary code keeps students in school and reduces the related effect of chronic absenteeism (defined as missing eighteen or more days of school). 

    Though not all parts of the Student Bill of Rights were incorporated, the revised student code also includes the right to free expression, an anti-discriminatory policy on the basis of race, gender expression, or sexual orientation. Additionally, students were granted a more participatory role in decisions that affect their education, the right to equitable academic resources, and the right to a socially, emotionally, and physically safe and positive school climate. 

    TeenBloc director Pam Little-Poole stated that, “I am both excited and encouraged by the revisions to our Code of Student Conduct. I think this is a big win for all PPS students.”

    Amma Ababio, a junior at Taylor Allderdice, commented that, “I recognize that the incorporation of the Student Bill of Rights into Pittsburgh’s Student Code of Conduct is the first step in addressing issues facing students in our district. However, in order for those issues to be addressed, there needs to be open conversations between students, the school board, administration, and our schools’ teachers and principals. I wholeheartedly believe that once those conversations begin the vision embodied in the Student Bill of Rights can be fulfilled.” 

    After a year and a half of hard work by TeenBloc and A+ Schools, PPS Board’s acceptance of most of the Student Bill of Rights sets an important precedent for student advocacy. Teens can, and should, care about the district policies affecting their every-day lives. Positive school climate and the reduction of zero-tolerance policies are essential for academic success in the classroom, and the district appears to be committed to making these ideals realities.

  2. TeenBloc Backs up its Call for a Student Bill of Rights with Research

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    Students lead call for change; Identify school-based obstacles to success

    Surveys of students and administrators reveal striking inequities across district

    Students called on the Pittsburgh Board of Public Education to adopt a Student Bill of Rights as a way to address systemic inequities found in this year’s School Works community action research project.

    Show your support for students by signing a virtual postcard to the Board.

    The results of surveys done through A+ Schools’ School Works program completed by over 400 high school juniors and 26 principals, counselors, and teacher leaders in Pittsburgh’s nine public secondary schools demonstrated that poorer minority students face multiple school-based obstacles to college and career readiness. The key finding from the report provided was that school climate, positive discipline practices, and staff instability are concerns common at high poverty schools.

    “While we know our students come to our schools with a variety of challenges, what we’re seeing is that students who come to our schools with less find themselves in schools that make it harder to get ready for college or career,” said Carey Harris, Executive Director of A+ Schools. 

    Read the full report.

    Scroll through the presentation.

    This research confirmed for TeenBloc student leader, Amma Ababio, a junior at Pittsburgh Allderdice, what she and her colleagues knew when they created the Student Bill of Rights as a way to share their vision for improving education in Pittsburgh. “This vision came out of months of conversations about our personal experiences in Pittsburgh’s public high schools,” said Ababio. “One student talked about how he felt like a prisoner by the way the security guards treated him. Another talked about how she didn’t think it was fair that her school did not have the same resources that other schools had.”

    Wanting change, students drafted the Student Bill of Rights to set the bar for how students should be treated and what they should be provided if they are going to graduate ready for college or career. “We realized that if we want these conditions to change, then we, as students, had to do something,” said Ababio.


    School report finds ‘large inequities’ in Pittsburgh Public Schools

    Pittsburgh Students Urge School Board to Remove ‘Obstacles to Success’