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Mayor Bowser Announces Legislation to UPLIFT Families and Keep District Youth Safe, In School, and Engaged

Wednesday, April 3, 2024
Legislation Focuses on Early Intervention, Alternative In-School Placements, Enhanced Family Engagement, and Accountability

(Washington, DC)?– Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the “Utilizing Partnerships, Local Interventions for Truancy and Safety (UPLIFT) Amendment Act of 2024” which focuses on early intervention, alternative in-school placements, enhanced family engagement, and accountability to keep young people safe, in school, and engaged. 

“We know that the safest place for our young people is in schools. Not only is school the safest place for our young people, it is also where they connect with trusted and caring adults who can assess their needs and make sure they have what they need to be safe, healthy and happy,” said Mayor Bowser. “This is about working together as a community to put meaningful interventions in place that better support young people and their families.”  
The legislation Mayor Bowser is sending to the Council of the District of Columbia includes provisions to address truancy and chronic absenteeism, enhance school discipline, and establish stronger accountability. 

To address truancy and chronic absenteeism, UPLIFT will:

  • Streamline and strengthen the District’s truancy referral process, by activating the Department of Human Services (DHS) to support students and families, prior to referrals to the Child and Family Services Agency or the Court. 

UPLIFT recognizes many of the barriers students face in getting to school are due to resource challenges, such as housing or food insecurity, which the Department of Human Services (DHS) is well-positioned to address through its early intervention services to youth and families. For cases where student absenteeism continues to persist, this proposed legislation requires the Court to take action to ensure accountability that matches the seriousness of truancy.

To enhance school discipline, UPLIFT will:

  • Establish temporary alternative school placement as an alternative-to-suspension model for students (Grades 6 – 12) involved in serious incidents.   
  • Fine tune the District’s approach to discipline by defining allowable suspensions for serious safety incidents for middle school students (Grades 6–8), clarifying definitional language, and allowing a designee of the head of a local education agency (LEA) to approve suspensions for more than 20 cumulative days. 

Alongside the District’s efforts to strengthen conflict resolution skills through rigorous statewide Social-Emotional Learning standards, the temporary alternative school placement proposed in this legislation provides a safe place where students with the most serious infractions and behavioral health needs can receive education and support services beyond what a traditional school can provide. UPLIFT gives schools and the Court more tools to address the most serious safety infractions.

To establish stronger systems of accountability, UPLIFT will:

  • Increase parental accountability by requiring parents or guardians to participate in a mandatory family group conference and any identified rehabilitative services with the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services when their child is charged with a gun crime or a crime of violence. 
  • Limit diversion for youth charged with committing a dangerous crime while armed or having available a knife, pistol, firearm, or imitation firearm. 
  • Ensure the Court has greater insight and oversight of youth charged with a crime of violence or dangerous crime while armed by narrowing the scope of youth eligible for Consent Decrees and Deferred Disposition Agreements. 

In addition to the proposed legislation, the Bowser Administration will continue its emphasis out-of-school time programming and the implementation of social-emotional learning standards as part of the whole-of-government approach to keeping young people safe and engaged. This also includes the continued work to bring School Resource Officers back into school communities, enhance operations and training in the Safe Passage, Safe Blocks program, and strengthen the DC School Connect microtransit program. 

The District will also create best practice protocols for school safety teams and pursue the development of a robust student transfer file, giving schools the information they need to best support students moving mid-year between schools. 

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