1,000 signatures reached
To: Every elected official, policymaker, and candidate.
Black & Brown Youth Demand Racial Justice in School Safety Debate
We deserve to feel safe.
We want to be trusted.
We demand Counselors NOT Cops in our schools.
We demand an end to racist policing in our schools and communities.
We will be heard.
We are young people from all across the country, standing in solidarity with the youth in Parkland and the millions of other young people calling for change. While people take up the debate around school safety and gun control with new energy, the debate itself is nothing new. We know this because we are the Black and Brown young people who have been at the forefront of these debates.
We stand in solidarity with youth who are calling for an end to gun violence in all of its forms and for school safety that doesn’t further criminalize Black and Brown communities.
When we go to school we are being prepared for prison more than we are being prepared for life. We see guns, and as Black and Brown children we know they are more likely to be used against us than to protect us. We are dehumanized by dogs sniffing our backpacks, harassed by police through invasive body searches and metal detectors, stripped of our privacy as officials rifle through our lockers, and surveilled by cameras as they capture our every move. This is our current reality – a school environment that treats us as suspects, as criminals.
We have experienced gun violence throughout our lives, and one of the main perpetrators of this gun violence has been police. We have watched as our Black brothers, sisters, and trans family have fallen victim to this system of institutionalized racism. We have come up in the age of the murders of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray and many other youth of color. Calls for an end to gun violence, which low income communities of color have been making for years, must include a demand for an end to police violence. This call is especially critical under the Trump administration, which has shown little restraint in aggressively expanding the militarization of the state and reinforcing the criminalization of Black youth and communities of color.
We write this letter to share our vision and clearly state our demands of how to end this abuse of Black and Brown children. Imagine if we could walk down the street and not worry about abusive police officers. Imagine if we could go to schools with engaging and culturally responsive classes, guidance counselors, mental health care, enough teachers to work with every student, a diverse faculty, and restorative practices. We could not only survive through high school, but truly thrive. This is the vision for which we are fighting.
Our organizations have been fighting for years to ensure that schools in communities of color are nurturing, safe, inclusive, and supportive places. Throughout history, Black and Brown communities have felt the harmful impact of investments that criminalize us. This has been particularly true in our schools since the Columbine tragedy, after which more than $1 billion were funneled from the federal government into criminalizing students in schools. We are leading the charge to rethink and change our schools’ and communities’ approaches to safety. In Milwaukee, Detroit, West Virginia, Connecticut, Florida, New York, Arizona, Los Angeles, and so many more, we are demanding an end to the school-to-prison pipeline and gun violence in all its forms. We have been fighting locally so that our country can have a new vision of how to respect and support young people.
Through our local fights we have come together on core demands that every community across the country must adopt to truly support young people and create safe schools. We will assess every policy, every elected official, and every person trying to get elected in the fall against this platform. If you cannot support young people of color, we will not support you.
Why is this important?
DIVESTMENT FROM SCHOOL POLICING: An improvement in mental health resources in U.S. cities cannot happen without an intentional and accountable effort to divest funding and shift budgeting from School Police officers to other necessary programs that actually promote a nurturing school environment. The expansion of police presence and security personnel/equipment in schools must end, as it only promotes a culture of fear and repression.
COMPREHENSIVE MENTAL & EMOTIONAL HEALTH SERVICES: We want all schools to provide a comprehensive program for mental health services so students can be proactively and consistently supported when dealing with emotional, mental, and social concerns.
MORE GUIDANCE COUNSELORS AND SOCIAL WORKERS: To address the violence affecting our schools, there needs to be a prioritization around hiring more guidance counselors and social workers trained specifically to support the emotional and mental state of students and to encourage the development of youth.
EXPANSION OF RESTORATIVE JUSTICE PRACTICIES: Restorative justice is key in building relationships between students, parents, teachers, school staff and community. It is an alternative to the presence of police and armed teachers that promotes emotional intelligence, communication and problem-solving. Our schools require an intentional, and systematic implementation of restorative justice.
CULTURALLY RESPONSIVE EDUCATION PROGRAMS: A culturally responsive approach to teaching and learning acknowledges that students and families come from diverse backgrounds and treats this diversity as a positive asset. This approach also aims to understand and address institutional, personal, and instructional biases. Schools that provide culturally responsive approaches will have engaging and accurate curriculum, diverse faculty, and address bias in all its forms. Providing culturally responsive educational opportunities can lead to safer communities for women, youth of color, LGBTQ students, and students of different faiths.
INVESTMENTS IN SCHOOLS AND TEACHERS: Across the country districts are funneling millions of dollars into criminalizing students, while schools fail to have basic supplies and teachers are paid meager and unlivable salaries. Instead of investing in policing, resources must be allocated to adequately compensate teachers and provide supplies for young people to learn.
PROTECTION FOR STUDENTS AND FAMILIES AGAINST ICE ARRESTS: Policing in our schools only serves to further criminalize young people of color at the expense of learning. Immigration raids across the country have occurred in and around our schools and in homes which instills a constant feeling of fear that impacts young people’s ability to participate in their education. That is why we know ICE and police are two sides of the same coin for our families. Both are detrimental to our dignity and our survival, and we need to end their reach into our lives now.
A CONCRETE PLAN TO END GUN & STATE VIOLENCE: Enact legislation that restricts the access of assault rifles, or weaponry used in mass killings. Additionally, enforcement of laws that restrict access to guns must not target policing of Black and Brown bodies or be racialized to favor any particular group. Laws must also be enacted to end the gun violence perpetrated by police officers.
Do you support our vision? If so, please sign on to support our platform. When you do, you will be joined by several organizations that have also supported our calls.
Young people organizing with:
• Californians for Justice
• Camden Parent and Student Union
• Communities United
• Florida Student Power
• Future of Tomorrow
• Girls for Gender Equity
• Good Jobs Now
• Juventud en Camino, Make the Road Pennsylvania
• Leaders Igniting Transformation (LIT)
• Living United for Change (LUCHA)
• Make the Road Connecticut
• Make the Road New Jersey
• Make the Road New York
• Organize Florida
• Power U Center For Social Change
• Rockaway Youth Task Force
• Sistas and Brothas United
• Texas Organizing Project
• Urban Youth Collaborative
• West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition
• Youth Power Collective
Supported by the following national and local organizations:
• Advancement Project
• Alliance for Educational Justice
• Alliance for Quality Education
• Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools
• American Federation of Teachers
• Blue Future + the Youth Progressive Action Catalyst
• Center for Constitutional Rights
• Center for Popular Democracy
• Coalition for Educational Justice
• Communities for Just Schools Fund
• Dignity in Schools Campaign
• Dream Defenders
• Funders Collaborative on Youth Organizing
• Journey For Justice
• National Education Association
• North Side Action & Resistance
• Racial Justice NOW!
• United for a New Economy
• Women's March