L.A. Youth Come Together to Reform School Discipline

For Immediate Release
March 10, 2012
For More Information Contact:
Danica Tisdale Fisher, (404) 538-8786

Los Angeles, CA – Today, 150 high school students from Los Angeles area high schools gathered for a Children’s Defense Fund- California (CDF) youth-led summit to mobilize for positive change and share stories in an effort to reform school discipline and dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline. The school-to-prison pipeline is a national crisis that is pushing youth, especially boys of color, out of public schools and into the juvenile justice system. This crisis at the intersection of poverty and race puts black boys at a one-in-three lifetime risk of going to prison, and Latino boys at a one-in-six lifetime risk of the same fate.

Data from the U.S. Department of Education released on Tuesday found that black and Latino students are more likely to be suspended, expelled, or arrested than their white peers.  Furthermore, over 70 percent of the students involved in school-related arrests or referred to law enforcement were Latino or black. In Los
Angeles, this pipeline to prison is reflected in the nation’s largest school police department and the 47,000 truancy tickets given out in the past 5 years, with more than 82% going to youth of color.  Though LAUSD’s black student enrollment is just 9%, the group alarmingly accounts for 26% of all suspension.

Youth participants at today’s summit recognize the devastating impact that the school-to-prison pipeline has on their schools and communities and are working in coalition with youth from across Los Angeles to help students beat these odds. Dozens of the students report being ticketed for truancy, in spite of the recent changes to harsh truancy ticketing policies in LAUSD, like the amendment of LA’s daytime curfew law (Municipal Code 45.04). CDF student leader Treasure Porter, a senior at Amino Lock High School 3, says, “The school-to-prison pipeline is setting us up for failure.”  She added, “We need you to trust us and give us hope to mature through education.” Almost all students reported knowing someone in a juvenile justice facility, many said they were arrested themselves on campus.

The summit featured a simulation exercise to help youth participants better understand the school-to-prison pipeline and its devastating effect on vulnerable youth.  The youth also heard from Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Second Supervisorial District; Manuel Criollo from the Strategy Center’s Community Rights Campaign; Kim McGill from the Youth Justice Coalition; and local student leaders who have been impacted by this pipeline. To show their commitment, youth participants signed a pledge to work within their schools and communities as change-agents to help educate youth and dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline.

The summit was organized by mostly Children’s Defense Fund’s Beat the Odds® scholarship recipients, youth who endured such hardships as homelessness and abuse and display incredible self-determination and a drive toward achievement through the common thread of  hard work, academic excellence, and service to their communities.

“I commend the Children's Defense Fund for organizing this youth summit and giving youth a platform to collectively use their voices to stand against the school-to-prison pipeline," said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. "One thing is clear, if you provide youth with the educational tools they need, coupled with a culture of high expectations and academic rigor youth will succeed in any environment."

The CDF youth envision this summit as the first of several actions to educate and organize youth throughout LA County around this issue and build upon the momentum and policy wins of established efforts like the Dignity in Schools Campaign’s member organizations work to decriminalize truancy and positively support school attendance and behavior.