The Coleman Update • October 28, 2015  

A weekly update on issues, policies and actions affecting children, youth and families in San Francisco.



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Video of South Carolina Student Assault Shows that Police Officers Should Not Be in Schools: A Statement from the Dignity in Schools Campaign 

On Monday, a video of a young black student being assaulted by School Resource Officer (SRO) Ben Fields in Columbia, South Carolina was posted online, showing us once again why SROs, municipal police, probation officers and other law enforcement personnel should not handle student safety or school discipline issues in and around schools. The young woman was hurled to the ground and dragged violently by the officer, risking serious injury or worse, and threatening the safety of the entire classroom.  

Across the nation, increasing law enforcement presence in schools results in increased reliance on suspensions, expulsions and arrests to address routine school discipline issues, overwhelmingly targeting students of color. Data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights highlights that “while black students represent 16% of student enrollment they represent 31% of students subjected to a school-related arrest.” 

Too many of our schools now look and operate more like prisons, with razor wire and security gates, metal detectors, random searches and pat downs, K-9 dogs, and interrogation rooms on campus. We see the stockpiling and use of military weapons and tactics in our schools. Young people face hostile school climates that intimidate the most vulnerable students, threaten system-involved youth with probation violations and incarceration, and scare undocumented youth and parents with the potential for ICE detention and deportation. There are increased incidents of sexual harassment - especially of young women - and homophobic slurs and abuse aimed at LGBTQ and gender non-conforming students, unfortunately events that are all too common between students and security staff. Community leaders - including parents - that have convictions are also prevented from accessing or volunteering in their own children's schools, thus significantly impacting the ability of students to stay and succeed in school. 

The Dignity in Schools Campaign, of which Coleman Advocates is a member, calls on Spring Valley High School and districts across the country to use positive interventions instead of suspensions, expulsions or ARRESTS and to shift funding to replace school police and other law enforcement with counselors, community intervention workers, peacebuilders, transformative justice and positive discipline. Our Model Code on Education and Dignity provides these and other preventive alternatives that promote positive school climates, rather than punitive and reactionary methods that push students out of school.

The Richland Two Black Parents Association in Richland, South Carolina has been working with DSC ally South Carolina Appleseed to call for changes to the role of police in schools and discipline policies:

“Without a clear memorandum of understanding between law enforcement and schools there is nothing in place to prevent such an assault of a student by an SRO.  Also, without a district-wide discipline code that clearly spells out that peaceful students will not be dealt with by law enforcement, but by school officials, nothing is in place to keep this from happening again to any other student quietly sitting in class. School districts that permit untrained law enforcement personnel into schools with no limitations run the risk of this happening every day.  

Treatment like this of students may be one reason that the US Department of Justice is investigating the Richland School District 2 (RSD2) SRO program.  The Richland Two Black Parents Association presented these important policy changes to the RSD2 school board in May but they have yet to be taken up.  The district participated in the national Rethinking Discipline Summit in Washington, D.C. this summer and has had its own discipline task force for over a year.  Yet despite all of this focus on improving, RSD2 has done nothing.  How many students must be hurt before they will make needed reforms?

No one expects when they send their child to school that this is how they will be treated.  Richland Two has failed its students by not protecting them and putting safeguards in place. Parents and community members can and should demand better for their students and all students.”

We must end the criminalization of youth of color in our schools and communities. Students are not safe in school when they are assaulted by SROs. Schools should provide a safe climate for all students, not push them into the juvenile and criminal justice system. We urge a swift investigation by the Department of Justice regarding the heinous assault at Spring Valley High. 

According to a news report, Officer Ben Fields has a history of violence and racial profiling of  black students dating back to 2005. In 2007 a couple sued him for excessive force and there is an ongoing investigation into racial profiling of a student named Ashton James Reese. Still, Officer Fields received an Award of Excellence from the district school. Students deserve a school district that does not reward officers with a history of inflicting excessive force and unfair treatment of students. We applaud the work of community members across the country calling for Officer Field’s termination and ColorofChange’s petition calling for his removal. You can read more about his termination here

Also, watch DSC members on today’s Democracy Now! show discussing police in schools and the alternatives to school discipline we advocate for. You can also read statements written by other DSC member organizations including Racial Justice Now! here and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. here


Black Minds Matter 
Supporting the Educational Success of Black Children in California 

The Education Trust – West today released “Black Minds Matter: Supporting the Educational Success of Black Children in California,” which examines how the nearly 1 million Black youth in California are faring from preschool through college and reveals the distressing disparities that newly released state and national data show persist at all levels of their educational journey. The report also highlights the groundbreaking efforts underway to reverse these trends in California and close achievement and opportunity gaps for African American students.

California is home to the fifth largest Black population in the country. Though California’s Black students today are more likely to graduate from high school and college than a decade ago they are:

Least Likely:

  • To graduate high school in four years and complete a college degree
  • To be placed in gifted and talented education programs
  • To be given a full sequence of college preparatory classes

Most Likely:

  • To be suspended and expelled
  • To be taught by ineffective teachers
  • To take remedial, non-credit bearing coursework as college students

These troubling findings are a result of the lack of access to opportunities and a history of inequitable policy decisions and institutional weaknesses rather than a lack of student ability or dedication. See the policy timeline.

The report also highlights schools, districts, universities and community-based organizations committed to closing achievement and opportunity gaps for Black students.

“Although we’ve made some progress, Black students continue to face an education system that squanders their talent” said Ryan J. Smith, Executive Director of Ed Trust – West. “The deaths of unarmed youth by law enforcement across the country tell Black youth that their lives matter less than other lives. Similarly the decisions made within our education systems tell Black students that their minds and futures matter less as well.”

The report includes recommendations for state policymakers, school, district and higher education leaders and outlines dozens of promising practices across the state. Black Minds Matter should serve as a rallying cry to acknowledge the lived experiences of so many of our children and to ensure equity and accountability within our education systems.

Click here to read the Black Minds Matter Report 


 In the news:


Dignity in Schools Campaign Statement on Spring Valley High Assault 

Ed Trust-West Report Black Minds Matter

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YMAC staff and youth leaders surveying students at Balboa High about their issue priorities and ideas for solutions to the problems at their school


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