Freedom to Be and to Move
Freedom to Be and to Move
It is not a coincidence that the schools like ours’, that have the most restrictive and high-control environments, have majority Black and Brown students. We live in a country that monitors and restricts Black and Brown people everywhere and at all times. This is rooted in our country being founded in slavery and genocide. The antidote to this is schools that value and center Freedom for Black & Brown people.
Issues happening now
WHAT THIS LOOKS LIKE IN OUR SCHOOLS:
For years students have said, “they focus more on discipline than they do on education”
Constant presence of security guards and police in our school creates a prison-like environment
Too many students getting suspended/thrown out of class/sent to PRR
In-school suspension (ADP) is basically a waste of time. It’s not set up for anyone to really talk to us, ask us about our behavior, or connect in any way.
Gates shut down in the hallways after school which means limited access to the school as soon as the bell rings
Sometimes the bathrooms are locked during school hours!! We’re told this is because there are not enough security guards on those days to monitor the bathrooms. Our question is: why do we need security guards to use the bathroom? We’re told because students smoke in the bathroom. Doesn’t that happen in Waterford, Groton, and other communities too? Why are their bathrooms not locked? Could it be that they’re seen as “kids just being kids,” while we’re seen as criminals for the very same behavior?
Can’t have headphones even though they help us concentrate
Can’t have outside food even though that’s a comfort that can help get us through the day
We’ve heard many stories from ELL students being told by admin or teachers to stop speaking their language - that is unacceptable!
Busses leave immediately after school, encouraging us to leave school right away and not stay after with a teacher
Some students are on pass restriction, which means a security guard has to be called every time they ask to use the bathroom and the security guard has to walk them to the bathroom. This contributes to a prison-like environment.
Some teachers are condescending and belittling to students
We’ve also heard teachers say that if they don’t write referrals for things like headphones and hoodies, they get in trouble from admin
Once you get a reputation for “being bad” they don’t let you change that
The environment is even worse at some “alternative” schools, where students have to take their shoes off and get wanded-in in order to enter the building.
Recruit building leadership that will create a culture of support and trust, not restriction and control
Invest in anti-Black racism* training for admin, teachers, and all staff.
Shift limited resources away from policing, security guards, and security cameras and toward programs like restorative justice that can build relationships and trust between students and staff
Hold regular forums where students, teachers, and admin can address and resolve problems
Our schools have students that speak over 40 languages!; ELL students should feel celebrated and prideful about their languages, not shamed or marginalized.
Create a teacher-student working group that can begin to create a more positive school culture. This working group should start off with participating in anti-racism training.
Hold regular student empowerment days where students can be trained in how to get involved and develop as leaders
We know of an awesome restorative justice program in Holyoke, Massachusetts (Pa’alante Restorative Justice Program) where they trained students in how to run circles, help resolve conflict, and offer support when their peers are going through something. They transformed the in-school suspension room to be a place where students are encouraged to reflect on their behavior and resolve conflict. We envision a program like that here in New London!
Build a real structure for students to make decisions about school policies and practices. We celebrate students being part of the Board of Education but a)they don’t have a vote; and b)it’s not enough. These opportunities need to be included in the school day and should be for-credit. Why couldn’t there be an “Equity in our School” course in which students get to analyze school data and design improvements? Student expertise needs to be recognized and taken seriously.
Create opportunities for students and teachers to evaluate administrators’ efforts at building positive school culture.
Create opportunities for students to participate in hiring school staff and admin.
*Anti-Blackness is denying value to Blackness and systematically marginalizing Black people and their issues. Anti-Black Racism is the unique discrimination, violence and harms imposed on and impacting Black people specifically. Definition originally from: https://policy.m4bl.org/glossary/
**BIG shout out to an organization in Florida called the Dream Defenders. The Freedom Papers, wThich they released in June 2018 and we read during the summer program, definitely inspired the way we thought about this theme. Thank you Dream Defenders! <3