California Freedom Ride

By Angelica Salazar

March 2, 2018

This week I attended one of the most moving and powerful press conferences in my career as an advocate. Young people traveled to Sacramento from Los Angeles, Stockton, and the Bay Area, and THEY did the talking about the education they need and deserve on the steps of the California State Capitol. Some of these youth leaders participated in a three-day journey – California Freedom Ride – that started in Inglewood, with stops in the Central Valley to discuss the need to pass SB 607, a bill that would ban suspensions and expulsions in grades K-12 for behaviors categorized as defiance/disruption. Some of the youth camped out the night before in front of the governor’s mansion, braving the 35-degree temperature to deliver a simple message: #KeepUsInSchool, sign SB 607 into law.

Youth leaders still got up early the next morning for a press conference to deliver their message again to our elected officials. They shared personal stories of being rejected by school for something as commonplace as forgetting their P.E. uniform, or for talking out of turn, or for verbalizing their anger, sadness, or frustration. These young people have been lucky because they eventually got the support and acceptance they needed. Now they want to expand student rights and supports so they advocate for other students to have the right to stay in class and access alternatives to suspension. View pictures from the event

Come on, Governor Brown! Don’t all students in California deserve schools where adults take the time to ask why and what happened? Suspending a student—any student in grade 3 or in grade 11—for a minor, preventable, or manageable disruption or disagreement is wrong. Instead of pushing students out, let’s focus on meeting the needs of students as best we can, and let’s support teachers in helping students reach their full potential.

The message from young people at the press conference couldn’t have been clearer. They urged the governor to listen to their stories and to work with them to find solutions. Youth also reminded us that this is a civil right issue, as Black students are substantially more likely to be suspended for defiance/disruption. Governor, the question for you is: Are you going to listen and push them forward, or do nothing and allow them to keep getting pushed out? I am both proud and humbled to stand beside these youth advocates. I urge the California Assembly and Governor to pass SB 607. Will you join me? Sign the petition now!