Advocacy For Dismantling School to Prison Pipeline and Ensuring Paid Family Leave

YW Boston Advocacy 2017 (4)

YW Boston endorses legislation as part of criminal justice reform and worker advocacy.

BOSTON, Mass – October 28, 2017 – YW Boston’s Advocacy Committee and volunteers gathered in Copley Square on Saturday October 21st to collect signatures that would ensure that paid family and medical leave is on the 2018 Massachusetts state ballot.  Canvassing for signatures is an effort to ensure that voters have a voice on the matter, and to encourage the legislature to pass S.1048/H.2172, An Act establishing a Paid Family and Medical Leave Program. This bill, along with S.2185, An Act relative to criminal justice reform, which takes crucial steps toward disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline, are the two bills central to YW Boston’s mission of eliminating racism and empowering women. 

The committee, currently comprised of 13 staff and volunteer members in education, policy, nonprofits, advocacy and law, meet monthly to plan awareness campaigns, increase civic engagement and establish key connections throughout the city.   The group has met with local leadership, including Councilwoman Ayanna Pressley and Councilwoman Andrea Campbell to discuss common priorities and offer YW Boston’s support for legislative advocacy, coalition building, and mobilization. In addition to establishing ongoing communication with local leadership, the Advocacy Committee has joined three key coalitions: Raise Up Massachusetts, The Massachusetts Citizens for Juvenile Justice Reform and the Coalition for Smart Responses to Student Behavior. 

Focused specifically on how the school-to-prison pipeline affects girls of color, YW Boston’s committee is taking a closer look at state and nationwide trends and examining factors that lead to the criminalization of youth of color. While many studies have found higher discipline, suspension, and expulsion rates for youth of color compared to their white counterparts, there is limited public awareness about the rising number of incidents involving girls of color.  Multiple reports present concerning data on harsh disciplinary practices in Boston schools. Black female students in Massachusetts are referred to police three times more often than their white peers and the problem may be compounding.  

S.2185, An Act Relative to Criminal Justice Reform begins to correct many of the unfair practices that contribute to this problem. First, the bill would decriminalize nonviolent misconduct and “disturbing a lawful assembly,” a vague crime often used to justify student arrests. Second, the bill  would change the juvenile court jurisdiction to exclude very young children under the age of 12 and to include emerging adults under the age of 21. Third, the bill would protect young people from future discrimination by improving sealing and expungement provisions. Finally, the bill would set requirements for a Memoranda of Understanding between school districts and police departments. 

The other advocacy commitment central to YW Boston’s initiatives for empowering families and supporting women in the workforce is the S.1048/H.2172 bill for Paid Family and Medical Leave.  YW Boston is supporting Raise Up Massachusetts’ efforts to ensure workers have access to benefits that would allow flexibility when caring for their own health or a family members’, including caring for a new child.  Currently, 87% of workers lack access to paid leave, which places them at risk of losing jobs or significant pay when they or their family members become ill and need ongoing care. This legislation would allow employees to take up to 16 weeks of paid leave to care for a family member, or 26 weeks for their own health.

While YW Boston hopes the Massachusetts legislature passes paid leave, the committee is also helping to ensure that if the bill does not pass, it will be on the 2018 Massachusetts ballot. On Friday, Nov. 17th, members of the Advocacy Committee will gather at the Ruggles T-stop from 3PM-5PM to continue collecting signatures and encourage volunteers to join.

If you have any questions, or would like to learn more about how to support these advocacy efforts, please contact Morgan Cowie-Haskell at


As part of this effort to inform and engage the public, YW Boston would like to publically announce current Committee members and extends its deep thanks to the many qualified candidates who sent in applications.

Advocacy Committee Volunteer Members:

  • Kristine Acevedo, Professional Organizer
  • Kelsey Barowich, Policy Analyst for the Joint Committee State Administration & Regulatory Oversight, Commonwealth of Massachusetts
  • Megan Bird, Executive Director, Citizen Schools
  • Diane Buhl, Retired Educator
  • Benjamin Kyle Golden, Attorney, Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office
  • Daisy Ortega, Associate Director of Training and Capacity Building, Health Resources in Action
  • Philippe Taieb, Social impact consultant & coach

Volunteer members are joined by several YW Boston staff on the Committee:

  • Rosa Alemán, Marketing and Communications Manager
  • Beth Chandler, Chief Program Officer
  • Leigh Chandler, Fund Development and Communications Associate
  • Meghan Condry, Advocacy Intern & Graduate Student at Umass Boston
  • Morgan Cowie-Haskell, Program Team Assistant
  • Mu-Chieh Yun, LeadBoston Coordinator


African American Policy Forum, Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies. (2015). Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced and Underprotected. New York, NY: Crenshaw, Kimberlé Williams.

National Black Women’s Justice Institute. (2017). Summary of Discipline Data for Girls in Northeastern Public Schools: An Analysis from the 2013-14 US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights Data Collection. Berkeley, CA: Inniss-Thompson, Misha N.




About YW Boston
YW Boston has been a leader in building a better Boston for all since 1866, when it was founded as the first YWCA in the nation. Today, YW Boston serves over 3,000 Bostonians with programs that educate + empower people across racial, gender, class, and organizational lines. YW Boston is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.

Press Contact
Rosa Alemán

YW Boston Advocacy Committee
YW Boston
140 Clarendon Street, Ste. 300
Boston, MA 02116
(617) 585-5495