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|For Immediate Release
March 30, 2013
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“Every Student Matters” Campaign Launches in Long Beach
Youth-Led Campaign Promotes Alternative School Discipline Policies
Long Beach, CA – Today youth leaders in Long Beach announced the launch of the Every Student Matters (ESM) Campaign at Cesar Chavez Park in Long Beach. The ESM campaign is the first student-led policy advocacy campaign organized by the Building Healthy Communities-Long Beach Youth Committee and seeks to partner with Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) leaders, educators, parents, and students to build supportive schools and promote alternative discipline policies that keep students in school.
The campaign launch events included a community forum, featuring a video of student testimonials and a panel discussion on school climate and school discipline practices, followed by a youth celebration and festival honoring Cesar Chavez. The ESM campaign also released a report highlighting school discipline data from LBUSD and the results of a survey completed by nearly 2,000 Long Beach youth about school climate and discipline practices. Among the key findings in the report are:
“I excelled and graduated from high school because I had support from school staff and was not suspended like many of my close friends were,” said Kazmere Duffey, a former LBUSD student who spoke at the community forum. “Unfortunately some of my same friends that were suspended from school at high rates did not walk across the graduation stage with me.”
Although LBUSD has been recognized for student achievement, the findings of the report demonstrate that many students in Long Beach have not had the same opportunities to learn and excel in a positive, welcoming and inclusive classroom environment. Several of the student and parent panelists shared their stories and experiences with harsh, exclusionary school discipline policies, explaining how they can push students out of school by putting them behind in credits, making it harder to stay in class, and negatively affecting student achievement, among other consequences.
“I am a part of this campaign because I want a school system that keeps my little brother in school and prepares him for a path to success,” says Youth Committee member Christopher Covington. “We are here today because we believe that ‘Every Student Matters,’ and every second counts.’”
The ESM campaign also called on LBUSD to adopt policies that will make approaches to school discipline more consistent. For example, under current LBUSD practices, students from two different schools who break rules prohibiting “willful defiance,” may be punished in very different ways, ranging from a phone call home to a 1-5 day suspension, because each school adopts its own discipline policy.
“The reason I contribute to this campaign is because it sets a tone for schools to adopt positive discipline practices,” says Camerine Ponn, “[it] gives me an opportunity to give a voice [to] the young people.”
The ESM campaign also urged LBUSD to implement restorative justice and other alternatives to exclusionary practices that have a proven record of helping teachers effectively manage classrooms while keeping students in class. Restorative Justice, a program that addresses student behavior using “dialogue in circles” to proactively prevent conflict and build community, is currently being implemented at Reid High School by the California Conference for Equality and Justice.
“Through restorative justice circles, I was able to open up and share my feelings rather then seeking other outlets,” said Tyler Tigilau, a high school student who participates in the Restorative Justice program at Reid.
Photos from the event are available on Children's Defense Fund-California's Facebook fan page.
Every Student Matters (ESM) is a youth-led policy advocacy campaign organized by the Building Healthy Communities: Long Beach – Youth Committee to promote practices that create healthy and supportive school climates, and a path to college and career. ESM believes that to build a vibrant future for Long Beach where every young person has a fair chance to thrive and succeed, we need to invest in our youth and in the health of our school communities.
Building Healthy Communities is a 10-year, $1 billion plan of The California Endowment. In connection with staff-led, statewide policy initiatives, 14 communities are taking action to make where they live healthier. They’re doing this by improving employment opportunities, education, housing, neighborhood safety, unhealthy environmental conditions, access to healthy food and more. The goal: to create places where children are healthy, safe and ready to learn. Ultimately, we’re aiming at nothing less than a transformation in the way all of us think about and support health for all Californians.