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 forum 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 schools into to the juvenile and adult criminal system, and essentially pushes them into prisons.

The forum 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 all of California.

 

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CVMB Holds All-Partner Planning Meeting

Central Valley Movement Building held its second and last All-Partners Convening for this year, for the purposes for developing education activists goals for the Valley in 2019.

Representatives in the meeting included Fresno Barrio Undios , Fathers and Families of San Joaquin (Stockton), Black Parallel School Board (Sacramento), the Dolores Huerta Foundation (Arvin, Weedpatch, Lamont, Sanger, Palier, and Bakersfield), the Merced Black Parallel School Board, and activists from Lamont, Vineland, Arvin, and Madera.

Unlike the first convening held in April, this meeting focused primarily on planning for next year. Meeting participants grouped together to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, challenges, opportunities, and threats of their organization and education activist work.

All the groups have been building relationships with parents, schools and districts, and board members and superintendents in their respective areas around issues of racial discrimination, student referrals to police, and making recommendations to Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP). 

Counselors Not Cops

All participants expressed deep concerns about the presence of School Resource Officers (SROs) on campuses. The presence of SROs contribute to a negative, punitive school climate, and they undermine the type of positive reinforcements, such as counselors and other support staff. 

CVMB Coordinating member, Carl Pinkston, provided recent 2015-16 data about the number of referrals to police in the Central Valley, including Sacramento.

Representatives of the Fathers and Families of San Joaquin, and the Merced Black Parallel School Board

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.

The National Association of School Resource Officers “estimates that there are 14,000 to 20,000 SROs nationwide.

The Root

SROs are typically paid law enforcement officers assigned to campuses, and extra tax dollars are budgeted for contracts with police departments monitor and give out referrals to students.

But as the Dignity in Schools Campaign California reiterated in last month’s National Week of Action, tax dollars and resources for schools should be used for counselors, not cops.

Members of the convening all agreed that focus must be to redefine school safety, which does not include SROs, but an effective implementation of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), restorative justice programs, cultural sensitivity and classroom management training for teachers and staff, and building a positive school climate.

April Convening

Central Valley Movement Building will hold a larger convening in April focused on the challenges and strategies for parent organizing, including how to address the issues of cops on campus.