Fix School Discipline Toolkit for Educators - Page 23

Highlight: Garfield High School Los Angeles Unified School District InnerCity Struggle InnerCity Struggle is a non-profit organizing youth, families, and community residents to build power and promote safe, healthy, and non-violent communities in the Eastside of Los Angeles since 1994. In 2003, they began organizing to secure the construction of a new high school to alleviate the overcrowding issues affecting Garfield High School, which was, at the time, the only high school in East Los Angeles. In 2010, as a result of their organizing and advocacy, a new comprehensive high school was opened, which relieved Garfield. With a smaller student population, school leaders were positioned to implement academic and best practices around alternatives to discipline, such as school-wide positive behavior intervention and supports and small learning communities. How did you begin organizing around changing Garfield High School? Maria Brenes, Executive Director, previously Youth Organizer: In 2003, United Students, a campus-based student organization supported by InnerCity Struggle, was frustrated with the overcrowding and high dropout rates at Garfield High School. Garfield was originally built for 1,500 students but was instead attempting to serve 5,000 students on a year-round, staggered, multi-track system. Some tracks were preferred and, therefore, there was entrenched inequality of course offerings, academic opportunities and quality of teaching staff. There seemed to be no incentive to support all students to remain in school and this lead to the implementation of policies such as a tardy room, where students were sent and held for long periods of time if they arrived at school even 1 minute late, and high suspension rates. United Students launched a campaign to eliminate the tardy room. After securing a commitment from Garfield administration that they would eliminate the tardy room and implement a proactive approach, the school Principal changed and the tardy room was returned. We realized we needed to address the root cause of the multiple issues impacted by overcrowding. The following school year United Students then started organizing to educate the community about what was happening at Garfield – low graduation/ high dropout rates (only 1 in 16 entering 9th graders graduated and enrolled in a four-year California public university), low college/career readiness, and the tardy room – and they collected more than 7,000 signatures in support of the construction of a new high school. That year, 400 youth, parent, and community members from our organization marched to LAUSD demanding that they approve the construction of the new school. Once the construction of the new school was approved in 2004, we then focused on the academic structure of the new school and researched data and best practices. We also surveyed more than 6,000 Eastside community members about the type of school they wanted the new school to be. In 2007, InnerCity Struggle released a report that outlined policy recommendations from families and students. We wanted to make sure that the new school wouldn’t replicate the problems of the old school. We wanted a small learning communities/ small schools model, A-G course offerings, career preparedness, a culturally relevant curriculum, and wrap-around support services for all students. We demanded that teachers work in teams to submit proposals for operating the five small schools on the campus to demonstrate their plans were high quality and aligned with the community’s vision. We wanted Eastside residents to have excellent choices for high school and worked with teachers to develop proposals. In 2009, while we engaged in the campaign to ensure that the new school opened with quality instructional models, we raised the urgency for improving Garfield’s academic program to school and district officials. In July 2009, the administrative and teaching staff were directed to come up with a plan to increase 21