On the weekend of July 6, youth from throughout California gathered at the Media Arts Center San Diego for a journalism boot camp hosted by The California Endowment. With the guidance of adult mentors, the youth produced blog, radio and video reports.
Above, youth from Lamont, Calif., and Boyle Heights in Los Angeles draw on their own experiences being suspended and ticketed at school to shed light on the impact of harsh school discipline policies.
State data shows California schools handed down more than 750,000 suspensions in 2009, mostly to males of color. Parents and community organizers say that’s excessive and puts students at risk of dropping out and becoming incarcerated.
Bridget Lambert of the National Conflict Resolution Center is involved with a City Heights effort to improve San Diego Unified’s school discipline policy. She described how school discipline measures can lead to incarceration.
“It affects their connectedness to the community and it decreases their chances of succeeding in school because they’re not in school,” Lambert said. “And then that decreases their opportunity for meaningful employment, going on to college. Ultimately the way that they end up trying to survive – food, shelter, clothing – ends up being with criminal activity.”
A recent analysis of state suspension data by Speak City Heights and the Investigative Newsource revealed that pattern is less prominent in San Diego than in California’s harshest school districts. Even in City Heights, where poverty and language barriers are expected to complicate classroom behavior, San Diego educators suspend less often and rarely for innocuous offenses.
You can read about school discipline elsewhere in the state from youth reporters in the Central Valley and Los Angeles: