In a 1969 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court said it explicitly: students do not "shed their constitutional rights" when they step into school. But too often, Nebraska students - especially students of color - are pushed out of classrooms and into the criminal justice system solely for age-appropriate, typical behavioral issues.
DISCIPLINE AND DISCRIMINATION
Federal data shows Black students and students with disabilities are far more likely to be subjected to physical restraint and exclusionary discipline than their peers. Nebraska’s students of color and students with disabilities are also significantly overrepresented in school law enforcement referrals, a trend fueling the state's school-to-prison pipeline. The Nebraska Legislature can make important progress on this front in 2021, and to do so they will need to defeat bills that would double down on punitive, exclusionary discipline.
State senators should quickly pass bills that would require more detailed tracking of student discipline and implement protections limiting discipline, such as suspension and expulsion. They should also soundly reject bills that will increase the use of discipline and add reasons to suspend, expel or reassign students.
ACCESS TO OPPORTUNITY
State senators can also ensure better, more equitable access to education by passing legislation addressing remote instruction and banning public colleges and universities from considering a person’s criminal record for purposes of admission. Higher education institutions regularly ask about an individual’s criminal record, which then has a chilling effect – often discouraging those individuals from completing the application even long after they have completed their sentence or paid their fine. Addressing this barrier will not only increase educational opportunities, but also provide a fairer shot at a better life for thousands of Nebraskans.
About this series
2021 holds the promise for meaningful change. At the start of it all is Nebraska's long 90-day legislative session. As our state senators face key issues, we need them to make the right choices. Your advocacy can help. We analyzed the hundreds of new bills that have been introduced and sorted civil rights priorities into eight categories. We call it the ACLU 8. These lists are not exhaustive and only reflect bills we've identified as top priorities or top threats. We encourage you to find your senator and tell them your priorities.