Conclusion and Recommendations
For the families of many students, the hope they experienced when first hearing about education reform in New Orleans has turned to despair. The narratives contained within this report are a call to action. School reform cannot be celebrated when so many families and children still struggle to access the basic components of a public education.
- Embrace effective school safety measures, including Restorative Justice, Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports and other evidence-based alternative school disciplinary practices. Ensure that all staff — including security officers — are trained in these practices.
- The Recovery School District has made some recent changes to school security policies and prohibited the use of fixed restraints and limited the use of handcuffs. All schools should abolish fixed restraints. Handcuffs should only be used by trained, certified law enforcement officers when there is probable cause to believe a student who is old enough to be prosecuted committed a violent criminal offense.
- Adopt a zero-tolerance policy for brutality committed against students by security guards and school officials. Implement a data collection system that carefully tracks and reports the use of handcuffs, mace, security batons in schools and physical force against students.
- Train all school staff on their affirmative obligations to report child abuse — even when abuse occurs at the hands of school staff, school security officers or police officers.
- Ensure that all students receive due process protections before they are removed from school as punishment. Ban the use of school suspensions and expulsions as punishment for minor infractions including uniform violations, being late for school and possession of legal items considered “contraband,” like candy.
- Reduce the number of school security officers and increase the number of counselors and restorative justice practitioners.
- Create a single entity (also known as a local education agency) that is responsible for administering special education services to all public school students in Orleans Parish.
- Require that each public school operating in New Orleans (especially charter schools) enroll a percentage of students with special needs. The percentage shall be calculated based on the prevalence of students with special needs in New Orleans.
- Ensure that schools have the resources necessary to provide students with special needs the related services they are entitled to under federal law including counseling, mobility, speech and other services necessary to ensure that students receive educational benefit.
- Ensure New Orleans public schools provide equal access to students with special needs and comply with the federal law governing the education of children with disabilities. These students must be provided with individualized support, related services and protected from discriminatory punishment.
- Establish independent monitors to oversee the provision of school discipline and special education services in New Orleans public schools. Establish community-based advisory boards comprised of parents, students, school staff, children-serving professionals and concerned citizens to oversee the work of the independent monitors.
- Ensure community involvement in the development and implementation of school policies related to discipline and special education. Convene regular focus groups of parents and students to determine how these policies are administered in each school.
- Hold schools accountable for high suspension and expulsion rates, incidents of brutality committed against students, and low admissions and retention rates for students with disabilities. This can be achieved by implementing a corrective action plan the first semester these issues become apparent at a school and by eventually revoking the charter of schools that fail to address these issues.