July 6 2015

My name is Dayvon Williams. I am a youth organizer with the Youth Justice Coalition (YJC) and a youth leader with the Brothers, Sons, Selves (BSS) Coalition. YJC is one of 11 LA County organizations in the BSS Coalition. We’re working together to get positive alternatives to suspension put in our schools. We also work to reduce the over-criminalization in our communities of color.

We do this because me and my peers have experienced a traumatizing revolving door: we are over-policed in our community, and then we go to schools that push us out instead of getting to the root cause of our issues. There were always police on my school campus. And there were not enough counselors for the thousands of students in my school.  We didn’t have after-school programs in high school, but we did have after-school detentions.  Being in after-school detention meant I had to stare at four walls for over an hour. I wasn’t allowed to do anything else. I felt like they were preparing me and my peers for solitary confinement. When I received an after school suspension, that made it harder for me to get my school work done for the next day, which started to affect my grades and relationships with my teachers.  Instead of getting suspended, I really just needed a counselor, a mentor, or a tutor to work with me. My experience is just one of countless examples of the need for change in our schools.

We need a positive school environment for students because it’s an important pathway to success in school. We need the School Climate Bill of Rights to be fully implemented at every school. The BSS Coalition worked with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and key community partners to pass the School Climate Bill of Rights in May, 2013.  It lays out eight rights that all students should have access to when it comes to school climate. We have the roadmap to supportive school climates. Now we just need LAUSD to fund it and make it a real priority. We need Restorative Justice counselors, peacebuilders, and Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports, NOT more police on our campuses.

My BSS Coalition peers and I took on a strong approach to make the School Climate Bill of Rights come to life. We were really frustrated that the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) decided to spend $13 million of LCFF supplemental and concentration funds on School Police last year. Those funds are only for improving outcomes and experiences of low-income, foster youth, and English- language learners. Having School Police on campus makes me and my peers feel threatened, not protected. Police create fear, and it is hard to bond as a community at school because of that. It is hard to focus my mind on my education when I feel scared and threatened by having School Police on my campus.

This year, we made sure that LAUSD did NOT spend any LCFF supplemental or concentration funds on School Police.  It felt good to make that victory together! We made our voices heard by putting on a Youth-led Town Hall in March, meeting with board members in April, and testifying at board meetings in May and June.  Our advocacy also helped push the district to increase funding for Restorative Justice this year by $3M ($7M total).

This one felt like a win, but at the same time, it was also disappointing. It’s always good to increase funding for Restorative Justice since it is proven to help students and improve school climate. But, we need much more than $7M to implement the School Climate Bill of Rights. LAUSD currently spends about $56M on School Police. How can you say you truly care about improving school climate when you spend $56M on School Police and only spend $7M on Restorative Justice?

We are making progress, but there is still a lot of work to be done. The BSS Coalition and YJC, along with other allies, will continue this united fight for justice in our schools!