Students and Parents Discuss Vision for Improving School Climate and Culture at Candidates’ Forum

With less than two weeks until local school board elections, roughly 200 students and parents throughout the Long Beach Unified School District gathered at a townhall and candidates’ forum on Saturday to discuss the need for further action and solutions for creating a positive school culture and climate.

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Students and parents pose for a picture with California State Board of Education Dr. Feliza Ortiz-Lincon who delivered the keynote address.

“Suspension rates are declining throughout the state as more school districts are listening to the growing body of evidence showing that punitive discipline leads to students more likely going to prison rather than college — especially if they are students of color. But reducing overall suspension rates are not enough,” says Jerlene Tatum of Success in Challenges and co-emcee of the event. “In places like Long Beach we still have persistent racial disparities – where African Americans are 6 times more likely to be suspended. We also know that reducing suspensions is only the first step. It’s one symptom of a larger problem that we need to address.

The event titled “Voices and Visions” featured an interactive townhall style discussion with student and parent testimonials about their experiences with school discipline and supportive relationships between parents, teachers, and students. An opening keynote addressing the need for positive school climates was delivered by Dr. Feliza I. Ortiz-Licon, a State Board of Education Member and resident of Long Beach.

“As much as we are proud to live and go to schools in Long Beach, students also see and recognize changes that we’d like to see happen,” said Sarai McKenzie, a Senior at Jordan High School and co-emcee of the event. “Our communities have had visions of positive school climate and engagement for a long time. We want to focus on how all of us–students, parents, teachers, and school board members–can work together to make that vision a reality.”

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School board candidates participate in the candidate’s forum and answer questions on school climate and culture

Shifting towards the upcoming local election on April 12th, the latter part of the event included a candidates forum with all four candidates running for election to the Board of Education for Long Beach Unified. Candidates answered questions from students and parents in the audience regarding community engagement, supporting student success, expanding health and wellness services, and ending racial disparities in school suspensions.

Attendees in the audience were encouraged to add their support to a community vision for building a positive school culture and climate. The four demands outlined in the vision included the need to invest in high need students, close the discipline gap, increase health and wellness services, and value student and parent voice.


The California Endowment Board Visits Long Beach!

On Thursday, February 20th, the California Endowment Board of Directors and Senior Staff spent the day with Building Healthy Communities: Long Beach.  The site visit was part of the Board’s three day quarterly meeting and provided the opportunity to highlight the good work that is happening because of BHC Long Beach.

The Board participated in a Toxic Tour and experienced the tremendous environmental justice challenges facing the west side of Long Beach.  They were also able to learn more about Restorative Justice and the Every Student Matters campaign by engaging with youth organizers and community organizers.

However, the highlight of the day for many was taking a walking tour around MLK Park with BHC residents and hearing them talk about why they are passionate about change in Long Beach.   Many of the board members commented on how they were impacted by the people of Long Beach and their commitment to the work of BHC.

Thanks to those who participated and to everyone who makes BHC so awesome!

Pictures from the walking loop:

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Youth-Rally for Common-Sense Discipline Reform

Blog Post by Walter Brown, Jr.
Youth Leader, Long Beach Building Healthy Communities
Oct 30, 2013

Being part of the Every Student Matters Campaign in Long Beach has been a challenging and rewarding experience. The goal of the Campaign is to promote positive alternatives to existing school discipline practices, including suspensions and expulsions, which cause the student to miss important class time and puts them at risk for dropping out.

I find it alarming that every 15 minutes a Long Beach student is suspended, particularly because each suspension means the student is missing out on valuable learning which has a negative impact on their academic achievement.

I believe that getting the win on the resolution was a big step forward because it will give students a chance to get the education they deserve and allow them to talk out their problems through restorative justice methods without having to miss valuable class time. This resolution gives students an opportunity to own up to their mistakes in a positive way, while giving teachers and school administrators a chance to get to the root cause of that student’s behavior.

A lot of students at my school experience trauma. Maybe it’s from home or their neighborhood, or even things going wrong in school but they carry it with them throughout the day. The trauma causes stress which sometimes results in a student acting out. Restorative justice allows the student to confront their stress in a constructive way while at the same time helps them build trusting and meaningful relationships with their teachers and school administrators. It also makes the student feel welcomed and comfortable to be themselves knowing that they aren’t alone or not cared about in school.

My experience with the Every Student Matters Campaign has been a moving one.  It allowed me to listen to many personal testimonies which motivated me to work even harder and get more involved. It’s essential to make sure that students feel welcomed and supported while going to school. After all, our education is our pipeline to success!

Cross-Posted from: http://tcenews.calendow.org/blog/youth-rally-for-common-sense-school-discipline-reform


LBUSD Votes to Improve Discipline and Keep Kids in School

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(Long Beach)  Tonight, the Long Beach Unified School District passed a resolution to promote positive alternatives to exclusionary school discipline by a unanimous vote.  The resolution urges LBUSD schools to provide alternatives to suspensions and expulsions by expanding Restorative Justice programs that support all students in becoming healthy, thriving adults.

“Restorative Justice allows a student to see the larger picture of his/her defiance,” said Barbara Lindholm, Principal at Reid High School. “We aren’t interested in ‘punishment.’ Rather, we want to inculcate the values of empathy, orderliness, and manners in students – lifelong lessons which they will use in future arenas.”  A student from Poly High School and a leader from Khmer Girls in Action, Malachy Keo, echoed Principal Lindholm adding, “I’ve had disagreements with teachers before.  Restorative Justice practices would have helped me and my teachers see each other’s point of view and build better relationships.”

As the majority of students in Los Angeles County, young people of color have a vital role to play in making our neighborhoods safer, our economy stronger and steering our city and state towards success. Yet low income and young men of color have the lowest life expectancy rates, highest unemployment rates, fewest high school and college graduates and most murder victims of any demographic group in the county. This reality starts in school policies that unfairly target students of color for suspensions which ultimately lead to truancy and drop-outs.   DSC_0078

“This vote is an important first step in our effort to ensure that every student has an opportunity to thrive,” said Kafi D. Blumenfield, President and CEO of Liberty Hill Foundation.  “Passage of this resolution signals that Long Beach truly wants all students to lead healthy, successful lives.”

Long Beach Schools Superintendent Christopher Steinhauser put forth the resolution which promotes disciplinary policies that are equitable, fair, focus on prevention, and provide an opportunity for students to learn from their mistakes. “I applauded the Superintendent and School Board for taking the right step forward,” said Delisa King, a parent of LBUSD high school students.  “I hope the district will work with our community of parents, students and advocates on implementing school discipline reforms.”

“Long Beach Unified has always been about change and improvement and this has been a part of everything we do,” said Citlali Hernandez, Senior at Wilson High School and a student leader at Californians for Justice.  “This resolution is no exception.  I look forward to working with the District to make sure that every student feels that they matter.”

For more information or interviews, contact Vincent Jones at 323-244-1070 or vincent@reinventcomm.com or Liz Shapiro at lizshap@gmail.com.

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Every Student Matters (ESM) is the first student-led policy advocacy campaign organized by the Building Healthy Communities Youth Committee. We seek to foster school discipline practices that address the root causes of behavioral issues, restore justice, and put students on a path to success.  Every Student Matters is a campaign of the Brothers Sons Selves initiative at Liberty Hill Foundation. Brothers Sons Selves is a coalition of L.A. County community organizations working towards a common agenda to improve the lives of young men and was created in partnership with The California Endowment.

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