Tackling biased school discipline in Florida

In the name of school safety, schools have implemented unforgiving, overly harsh discipline practices that remove children from school and brand them as criminals for acts that rarely constitute a crime even when committed by an adult. Throughout Florida, many public schools have begun to rely almost exclusively on suspensions, expulsions and arrests as the primary methods of discipline, turning schools into feeders for the juvenile and criminal justice systems.

The Florida Branches of the NAACP, Advancement Project, and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) are conducting public hearings throughout the state on the increasingly harsh school discipline policies in Florida’s public schools. The purpose of the hearings is to raise public awareness about the negative impact of reliance upon law and order approaches to address typical student misbehavior; to expose the connections between disparities in educational opportunities and extreme discipline policies; to discuss best practices for keeping schools safe without criminalizing children; and to encourage efforts toward reform. For more information contact: Monique Dixon mdixon@advancementproject.org or 202/728-9557.

More Than 50 Percent of Voter registration Applications Rejected in Norfolk, VA:

More than half of Norfolk City’s new voter applications have been rejected since the beginning of 2005. Advancement Project recently submitted a letter to Jean Jensen, Secretary of the State Board of Elections, stating that several current registration practices described to our staff by the City Registrar appear to violate the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) and state law. At least three practices of the Norfolk City registrar are problematic, although it is not known at this time how many of the applications were rejected for inappropriate reasons, For example:

When eligible members of the military submit a voter registration application, the Norfolk City Registrar does not add them to the voter rolls as required by law. Instead, the Registrar sends them a packet of information, inquiring whether they really want to register to vote in Virginia and enclosing a second application that must be filled out and submitted in order for the applicant to be registered in Norfolk. The Registrar’s office explains this additional step essentially a requirement that members of the military submit two applications – as designed to ensure that temporarily stationed members of the service are aware of the consequences of registering in Virginia. While this extra step may be well-intentioned, this dual application requirement places an additional, illegal burden on military voters.

The Norfolk City Registrar also rejects applications if it believes that the applicants may not have filled out their own applications. Voter registration workers sometimes assist applicants by filling out portions of the form at their direction. Under the Constitution of Virginia, Article II, Sec. 2, the application shall be completed by or at the direction of the applicant.†In addition, the NVRA makes no mention of any handwriting-related requirement other than the signature of the applicant.