Central Valley Education Justice Forum Hosted in Fresno, CA

Over one hundred and forty parent activists, youth, and Central Valley organizations attended the annual Central Valley Movement Building (CVMB) Education Justice Forum hosted at the Falls Event Center in Fresno, CA.

The purpose of the CVMB forums is to create a unique space for networking, to increase awareness and engagement about school discipline reform, and to redefine a healthy school environment.

As part of CVMB’s mission, the annual forum critically examines the school-to-prison pipeline which hinders positive interactions for students in schools. Instead, punitive practices funnel students from from schools into to the juvenile and adult criminal system, and essentially pushes them into prisons.

The convening drew together parents, community members, and youth from the nine Central Valley counties—Kern, Kings, Fresno, Madera, Merced, South Sacramento, Stanislaus, and Tulare.

Groups and organization represented include the Dolores Huerta Foundation, the Black Parallel School Board, Fathers and Families of San Joaquin, Fresno Barrio Unidos, Yo Cali!, Tower of Youth, Hmong Innovating Politics, and Merced Black Parallel School Board, Gay Straight Alliance, East Bay Asian Youth Center, Youth Leadership Institute, Fresno Metro Ministry, Dignity in School California, NoMedia, and Weaver Unified School District.

Keynote Speaker

Fresno native and community activist, Dayana Contreras, moderated the Education Justice Forum, and Reyna Castellanos provided professional translation and interpreting services.

Tia Martinez

The forum kicked off with a presentation by Carrie Ayala, CVMB’s own regional connector. Carrie provided an overview of the purpose and work of the CVMB and how it works to connect organizations and people throughout the Central Valley.

The next presenter was Tia Elena Martinez from Forward Change. Tia is currently an independent consultant doing work on dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline and transforming life changes for boys and men of color.

Tia’s presentation consisted of powerful data highlighting student suspensions and arrests occurring throughout schools and districts in the Central Valley. More importantly, she conveyed the urgent need for community organizing to eliminate punitive disciplinary practices, especially for vulnerable student populations such as foster students, Black students, and students with disabilities.

Know Your Rights Training

In order to inform participants about the law to better protect students in situations involving law enforcement, Nicole Bates, Julia Love, and Melina Hettiaratchi of Legal Services for Children, provided an informative and popular Know Your Rights training. Participants learned about the fourth and fifth amendment in relation to the educational system and the history of Student Resource Officers (SROs) on school campuses.

400%: Schools employing school police see increases in student offenses and school-based arrests by as much as 400%.

Though the intended purpose of the SROs is to “prevent crime and respond to emergency situations” on school campuses, the reality is that the increased police presence leads to more school based arrests and referrals to law enforcement, particularly for students of color, LGTBQ students, and students with disabilities. Cops on campus also result in the criminalization of minor student behavior in classrooms and schools in general.

Student Breakout Session

For the first time at CVMB, the annual forum included a breakout session for the 20+ student attendees. Students held small group discussions to discuss what supports and changes they would like to see in their schools in order to eliminate the school-to-prison pipeline.

Thank You

On behalf of the Central Valley Movement Building Coordinating Team, and especially Maria Madril Hernandez who lead the preparation of the forum, we want to thank all those who participated. The work you do in your school and communities is instrumental to dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline in the Central Valley and the rest of California.


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CVMB Participates in Equity on the Mall 2019

Organized by the San Joaquin Valley Health Fund, the Center at Sierra Health Foundation and community partners, including the Central Valley Movement Building, the annual Equity on the Mall was held in Sacramento on March 6th.

The event culminating at the State Capital included presentations by elected representatives community leaders, music, dance, spoken word and legislative visits about pressing issues impacting communities in the San Joaquin Valley.

As part of the Equity on the Mall event, a policy statement was released that focuses on Senate Bill SB 419, authored by Sen. Nancy Skinner, would do the following:

  • End Willful Defiance from the Education CodeSB 419 will improve student outcomes and encourage schools to adopt alternatives to suspensions and expulsions by:
  • Eliminating defiance/disruption suspensions and expulsions for students in grades 4-8;
  • Eliminating defiance/disruption suspensions and expulsions for students in grades 9-12 until January 1, 2025; and
  • Encouraging the use of Multi-Tiered Systems of Support to help students gain critical social and emotional skills.

Download the Word Version of this statement, which includes footnotes to the sources.


Points

  1. In 2017-18, foster youth, Black students, and students with disabilities were four, three, and two times more likely to be suspended than their peers, respectively.
  2. State data reveal that students with disabilities were less than 13% of California’s student enrollment in the 2017-18 school year, yet they comprised 31% of disruption/defiance suspensions.
  3. Black students were less than 6% of enrollment, but nearly 16% of disruption/defiance suspensions in 2017-18.
  4. Further, research suggests that disparities in discipline for students of color are due in partto both unconscious and intentional discriminatory practices, which is particularly true for highly subjective offenses like disruption/defiance.
  5. Several studies confirm that Black students receive harsher punishments for minor and more subjective violations than White students. Studies also confirm that there is no evidence that Black students misbehave at higher rates.

Educational Justice — No LCFF Funding for SROs

Fueled by increasingly punitive approaches to student behavior such as “zero tolerance policies,” the past 20 years have seen an expansion in the presence of law enforcement, including school resource officers (SROs), in schools.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the number of school resource officers increased 38 percent between 1997 and 2007.1 Some cities, like New York City, employ more officers in schools than many small cities’ entire police force.

The question of school safety is about healthy educational environment.

The presence of SROs and cops on campus undermines the responsibility and agency of students, school administrators and staff, and the communities they serve to build transformative and positive school cultures that teach respect for students and commitment to student’s academic success.

In 2015/16, Central Valley school districts are among the top 5% of districts with the highest rates of school related arrests. In 2015-16, 158 student arrests were made in Sacramento City Unified, 159 in Fresno Unified School District, and in Clovis Unified, 114.

Reports also show a rising trend in students in disability being arrested. Central Valley districts represent only 23% of all districts with 1000 or more students, but 33% of the top 30 highest suspending districts for students with disabilities. 

Furthermore, in 2015/16 the Central Valley had 1,079,038 students enrolled, plus 607 full time police officers and 737 full-time security officers. There are more police officers and security guards in Central Valley schools (1,345 combined) than counselors (1,315.)

We need legislation that end the use of Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) funds for School Resource Officers in school districts

The presence of SROs and referrals to police as feeding into the school-to-prison pipeline, we contend that the solutions to system-wide discrimination and violations of student rights requires not just changes in programs but also systemic changes in the culture of schools.

CVMB Holds First Convening of Parents and Organizers in the Central Valley

Central Valley Movement Building (CVMB) held its first Regional Partner Convening for this year to present and discuss the latest statistics about school suspension rates in the Central Valley, the school-to-prison pipeline, and the legal rights students and parents have in regard to school disciplinary policies .

The convening included parents, education activists, and students from California for Justice, Barrio Undios and Focus Forward (Fresno); Fathers and Families (Stockton), Black Parallel School Board (Sacramento); the Dolores Huerta Foundation (Kern); the California City Parallel School Advocates, and the Merced Black Parallel School Board.

This year’s convening was especially powerful in that it included parents and community organizers who are actively challenging issues of racial discrimination, unfair and costly student school suspensions of especially black and brown students, and poor academic support on the part of schools, administrators, and teachers in Central Valley schools.

CVMB Regional Coordinator, Stephanie Kamey, welcomed participants and facilitated  the convening by giving a presentation about the goals of CVMB and the Five Principles Of Engagement. 11 participants signed the Principles of Engagement.

Regional Coordinator, Stephanie Kamey

Dignity in Schools California team coordinator and research consultant, Tia Martinez, gave a powerful and alarming presentation of statistical data about the suspension and expulsion rates of students in the Central Valley.

Though Tia pointed out how suspensions have actually dropped by 46% in California (because of local activist work and restorative justice practices), the rates of suspensions and willful defiance are still worse for black and brown students in California. In fact, she pointed out several times that the Central Valley has the highest rates of in and out of school suspensions of all the regions and counties in California.

Tina Martinez

The Central Valley is driving suspensions for Black students, at 53%. Similar rates are also high for foster youth, 32.0%, and students with a disability at 20.5%, compared to 11.8% statewide. The highest suspending districts in California are in Merced county, at 25.2%, and in the Mojave school district, at 22%. Suspensions are even occurring at the elementary level. Fairfax Elementary, in Bakersfield, suspends 80.5% of its foster care students.

Suspensions Lead to Drop-Outs

The stats for school suspensions show that kids who are suspended are twice as likely to be held back in school. Tia explained that when students get behind and they stay behind. When suspended kids are not in school they are more exposed to aggressive policing in their communities, which can lead them to getting arrested and placed in jail or juvenile hall, which is difficult to get out of.

Suspended youth are twice as likely to drop of out school all together if they don’t have adequate family and school support networks. School suspensions and expulsions, along with poor academics and counseling can mean that suspended students are acceptable to arrests, being putting into the juvenile justice system, and ultimately in prison. This process is what is meant by the school-to-prison pipeline.  

Know Your Rights

One of the purposes and goals of CVMB is to help parents and advocacy groups monitor and challenge what’s going on with the most racially targeted students in school districts, who are disproportionately suspended from school, and who get sucked into the school-to-prison pipeline.

CVMB invited members of Legal Services for Children and Coleman Advocates to give a presentation and training for how to advocate for youth and families, by being aware of and challenging the policies and practices that harshly punish students for breaking certain rules regardless of circumstances.

Representatives of Legal Services of California

Zero Tolerance Policies in schools are used to suspend students for willful defiance or disruption, which can include chewing gum in class, wearing an unacceptable hairstyle, failing to follow directions in class, and many other minor incidents and behaviors. Research has shown that the practice of suspending students for willful defiance is often subjective and disproportionately metedout to students of color.

Many parents may not still know that by current law, students in grades K-3 cannot be suspended for willful defiance or disruption, but that law is set to sunset on July 1 of this year. Senator Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, has authored legislation, SB 607, that will extend the current law for grades K-5 and through 2023 for grades 6-12.  When students are suspended from school, they are missing classroom participation and learning time. That’s why it’s important to support and advocate for legislation like SB 607 to protect young people, mostly students of color, from discriminatory practices that keep them from getting the education they need.

 

During the presentation and discussion for Know Your Rights, the question arose about who is monitoring the actions of teachers and the school climate that contribute to disciplinary problems in the classroom. Parents should have the right to know which teachers in schools are sending kids to the principal’s office the most, or whom are having difficulty developing and maintaining a positive classroom environment conducive for teaching and learning.

In nearly all cases, the focus is on what students are doing wrong, but there’s less or no  monitoring of teachers who consistently have classroom management problems, who consistently give low grades, and who are not culturally aware of and sensitive to students they teach. Furthermore, too many students of color graduate from school never being taught by a teacher of color, especially an African American male or Latino teacher.

We need to monitor schools for multicultural inclusion, after-school programs, and sufficient counselor and social workers, instead adding more police on campus.

Parent and Community Activism

The purpose of the CVMB convening also enables parents and activist groups to network and exchange strategies for confronting the challenges they are facing with schools and districts in their community.

One of the big successes this year has been the founding of the California City Parallel School Advocates, and the Merced Black Parallel School Board, to organize and start making presentations and demands at their respective school board in their district. Both of these groups were inspired by the Black Parallel School Board in Sacramento, of whom CVMB coordinator Carl Pinkston is a founding member. 

Members of the Merced Black Parallel School Board, and the California City Parallel School Advocates

These groups can begin to learn about and influence the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) and the Local Control Funding Formula in their districts to earmark money for smaller classroom sizes, professional teacher training, after school programs, and to achieve other goals to increase student opportunities and academic achievement.

Similarly, organizers of the Dolores Huerta Foundation gave a presentation of a survey they conducted with parents about how aware they are of Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS), as well as getting stories about what students of color are experiencing in their school.

Parent and community organizers of the Dolores Huerta Foundation

Join the Movement

The only way we can continue to reduce school suspensions and increase academic opportunities and achievement is by getting parents, students, and even teachers involved in advocating for changes that will help keep students of color from entering the school-to-prison pipeline.