Our Kids Are In Trouble
An email received this week by Loreen Pryor-Trowel, President of Black Youth Leadership Project (BYLP), contained the ominous warning, “Our kids are in trouble”. The email, sent from an anonymous Elk Grove Unified School District (EGUSD) staff member, outlined policy changes to the definition of ‘Child Abuse’. The policy changes disturbed Mrs. Pryor-Trowel, as well as other concerned parents of Elk Grove’s Black students. It prompted them to share the slides publicly and demand explanation from EGUSD officials. Established in 1999, BYLP is non-profit educational organization dedicated to “developing California’s next generation of public policy leaders”. The organization advocates primarily for Elk Grove’s Black students disproportionately targeted by the District for suspension. According to the EGUSD’s own Research and Evaluation report, in 2018-2019-Quarter 2 Black students made up 11.8% of the EGUSD’s population. However, these same students accounted for 40.3% of suspensions.
The policy changes give immunity to Peace Officers and other school staff who cause bodily harm to youth. Mrs. Pryor-Trowel argues that, combined with disproportionate targeting, the new policy will impact Black students negatively. For example, Mrs. Pryor-Trowel believes language such as “reasonable and necessary force” is subjective. Furthermore, according to Mrs. Pryor-Trowel, the new policies remove any legal recourse for families whose children suffer injury at the hand of school officials. In addition, Mrs. Pryor-Trowel argues granting school staff immunity in cases of suspected child abuse is a regression rather than progress. EGUSD is in a years-long fight for racial justice in education.
According to “Get Out“, a study on Black male suspensions in California Public Schools, “Black males are over-criminalized in society and this translates into experiences in school where they are singled out for punishment, over-regulated for minor-innocuous actions, or misidentified when no wrong-doings occurred. This results in quicker and harsher punishments for Black boys (Howard, 2008; Wood, Essien, & Blevins, 2017).”
Adding to the concern, the new policies around the definition of child abuse are not yet publicly available on EGUSD’s website. The leaked documents caused an outcry at Tuesdays Elk Grove School Board meeting. Mrs. Pryor-Trowel was one of many who submitted public comments disapproving of the revelation.
Education Code 49001
The changes to the definition of child abuse concern Education Code 49001. The code states, “For the purposes of this section “corporal punishment” means the willful infliction of, or willfully causing the infliction of, physical pain on a pupil. An amount of force that is reasonable and necessary for a person employed by or engaged in a public school to quell a disturbance threatening physical injury to persons or damage to property, for purposes of self-defense, or to obtain possession of weapons or other dangerous objects within the control of the pupil, is not and shall not be construed to be corporal punishment within the meaning and intent of this section.”
In a statement released exclusively to Elk Grove Tribune, Mrs. Pryor-Trowel said, “EGUSD has broken out sections of this Ed code omitting “in self-defense” or “to remove a weapon” thereby shielding themselves from liability if they injure our kids. Reasonable and subjective is left up to the interpretation of those who have demonstrated a lack of ability to be objective. I believe this policy will be abused sending more of our children into systems intent on disrupting Black families due to latitude given to those in the education system whom by their own statistics are inherently biased”.
Many of the public comments at Tuesday’s EGUSD Board meeting mimicked these concerns. The public demanded the District revise the policies immediately. Furthermore, the public demanded the District uphold students’ Civil Rights. The School Board meeting ended with Board Members directing staff to follow up on the public’s comments and concerns.
Watched the full EGUSD Board meeting here: August 11, 2020, EGUSD Virtual Meeting