Tensions were high on Tuesday night as tempers flared during the Elk Grove Unified School District Board bi-weekly meeting. Community members and advocates, as well as families demanded action and accountability around racial issues plaguing Elk Grove schools.
An almost all-Black lineup of parents and students directed strong criticisms at the Elk Grove Unified School Board.
The issues at hand include racial harassment and mistreatment of African American students, as well as lack of corrective action on the part of school officials, including the Elk Grove Unified School District Board.
Allegations centered on overt and covert acts of racism in Elk Grove Schools. Public comments charged school officials with misconduct directed toward Black students. Just as well, acts for racial bullying usually go unpunished, according to several Black parents.
Black Youth Leadership Project – Village Advocates also attended the meeting. The self-described “Civic education program designed for California’s Black High School students” supported and advocated justice for Black families.
Black Youth Leadership Project
California based Black Youth Leadership Project is a civic non-profit. The group works with, as well as on behalf of Black families.
According to its website, the organization, “Establishes, develops, and implements educational programs for Black youth in California in the areas of leadership development, public speaking, the legislative process, public service, cultural awareness and identity.”
In addition to direct advocacy, the group also trains students to advocate for social justice. Likewise, the group works to build bridges with Black Law Enforcement officers and community members.
BYLP President Lorreen R. Pryor said “The Village has stepped up our involvement of behalf of Black students, [including] attending work-groups with district personnel to tackle many of the issues”.
Pryor added, “They continue to not REQUIRE training because of the teaching unions and the contracts with teachers.”
According to Pryor, several issues must be addressed. First, school discipline practices that effect Black students, especially Black boys, more than others.
In addition, the Board must address inaction on the part of school officials, especially after racial bullying is reported by Black students.
Allegra Taylor, Volunteer Advocate with BYLP Village Advocates, said “We are demanding REAL EQUITABLE INVESTMENTS so that we can start the process of healing our broken village.”
Taylor added, “We are asking the board to trust our suggestions, allow us to show them how to work with our black kids and families, because we know our people and our community best.”
Rebecca Person, one of many parents in attendance also addressed the Board. Her son recently received an on campus suspension. Person later told Elk Grove Tribune, “[The] only person that should have access to discipline records is administration. The teachers are being biased [against] students.”
Race and Educational Equity: Following public comment by parents and BYLP Advocates, Elk Grove Unified School District Board members voted without objection to approve updates to board policies and regulations, including policies that concern discipline.
Furthermore, the Elk Grove Unified School District Board updated its policy and regulations around the roles and responsibilities of school officials and law enforcement. Mark Cerutti, Deputy Superintendent for Education Services and Schools, outlined the updates in a presentation to the Board. Echoing many of the sentiments parents forcefully delivered during public comment, Cerutti discussed the motivation for the updates, including:
- Suspension and expulsion data confirms persistent disproportionality specific to the following student subgroups: African American, Foster Youth, Homeless, Socio-economically disadvantaged, and Special Education.
- Needed fidelity of implementation of best practice behavior development, student intervention, and disciplinary practices.
- Isolated improvement practices vs. a comprehensive, systematic approach.
- Concentration of events in 2017/early 2018 prompted a comprehensive, School District/Community Partner approach.
- Board of Education direction on the development of a Board Policy that provides clarity between the roles of site administration and law enforcement
Working with district and community partners, including BYLP The Village, Cerutti’s office began crafting the changes in late August.
Particularly, the exact policy and regulatory updates focused on the following:
- Suspension and Expulsion Due Process
- Roles and Responsibilities of School Administrators and Law Enforcement Relative to Student Behavior
- Questioning and Apprehension by Law Enforcement
- Record of Student Interview by Law Enforcement
Moreover, Cerutti outlined several next steps. Indeed, the work to make Elk Grove Schools better continues.
In a forthcoming article, Elk Grove Tribune will take a deeper dive into each of the updates.
Check out Black Youth Leadership Project -BYLP: www.bylp.org
View a presentation on the policy updates here: file:///C:/Users/lodgsocx/Downloads/C_VIII_1_BPARApprovalPresentation_0.pdf
All Photos by Joshua Perry.
Video of Elk Grove Unified School District Board Meeting 11-13-18
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