"Do the Harder Work--Create Cultures of Connectedness in Schools":
A Youth & Parent Organizer Response to the Federal Commission on School Safety
On December 5, 2018, the Communities for Just Schools Fund (CJSF) released "Do the Harder Work--Create Cultures of Connectedness in Schools," a report responding to the proceedings of the Federal Commission on School Safety and calls to “harden” schools. After the writing of this report, the Commission, the body appointed after the Parkland tragedy to make “meaningful and actionable recommendations to keep students safe at school,” released final recommendations that prioritize physical safety and security measures, which will further criminalize students of color, LGBTQ+ and gender nonconforming youth, as well as their communities. While emergency planning and infrastructure are important components of school design, calls to arm teachers, increase police presence in schools, and invest in further improving physical security infrastructure too often come at the expense of more holistic considerations of student well-being. Investments proven to criminalize children threaten to derail efforts towards the kinds of schools all young people need and deserve.
For years, youth and parent organizers supported by CJSF have advocated for eliminating exclusionary discipline and moving to positive school climate efforts that include an embedded sense of safety and wellness for all students and an explicit emphasis on racial equity. Many of them testified to this work before the Federal Commission on School Safety, pushing back on calls to “harden” schools and sharing what they know from personal experience makes youth of color and LGBTQ+ students feel physically and emotionally safe in schools. In this report, CJSF’s community partners--youth, family, and community organizers from around the United States--provide a roadmap for the harder work of fostering "cultures of connectedness" in schools by investing in restorative justice, culturally relevant curricula and practices, diverse teaching and support staff, anti-bias training, mental and emotional health supports and more.
States and local districts have the opportunity to do what the Commission failed to do: lean into the vision of public education that youth, parents, and teachers are fighting for--a vision that is not limited by a narrow and deeply flawed understanding of safety. Join us as we push towards investments and supports that will actually transform schools into places where all young people are prepared to succeed and thrive in school, in career, and in life. When school is a welcoming, nurturing and safe place for students, where they have a deep sense of belonging, and where they are challenged to grow, our communities are stronger, and our future is limitless.