Fix School Discipline Toolkit for Educators - Page 62

FREE L.A. HIGH SCHOOL Fighting for the Revolution that will Educate and Empower Los Angeles, Youth Justice Coalition FREE LA High School first opened in 2003 to serve system-involved students being kicked out of traditional school settings and those returning from juvenile detention facilities. This independent charter school, located in Chuco’s Justice Center on the border between South Central LA and Inglewood, is open to students 16-24, who want to finish high school and receive a diploma. Students and staff at FREE LA High School participate in transformative justice (TJ) as an alternative to suspensions and expulsions. TJ engages all stakeholders in circles aimed at building relationships and trust. In circles, student and sta ff address school-related problems, such as truancy, bullying, and youth staff relations. They also tackle broader social problems, such as discrimination and police violence. TJ develops the skills of students, staff and other community members in conflict mediation, problem solving, de-escalation of violence and techniques to defuse bullying, harassment and disrespect. Additionally, Youth Justice Coalition provides training and professional development to school teams who want to implement transformative justice in their schools. How is the culture at Free LA High School different from schools that you previously attended? Julio Marquez, 12th grade student: Before coming here, I was at a different school where I was in honors classes but I started having health issues that were getting in the way of my focusing on school. No one really cared about what was going on with me so I became depressed and started failing my classes. At my other school there were security guards with guns and the culture was oppressive and not welcoming. Here, everyone belongs and can bring something into the space. This is most definitely a 60 How we can fix school discipline better way of learning. Another great thing about FREE LA High School is that we practice transformative justice to resolve conflicts. Transformative justice is a little different from restorative justice. Restorative justice looks at repairing harm and restoring something that was lost. Transformative justice does that too but then works on advancing together and transforming the society around you; it seeks to repair, prevent and move forward. For instance, say that I was at your house and I wrote graffiti on your walls. If we are working with restorative justice, I would apologize and clean or paint your walls to get rid of the graffiti. Transformative justice takes it further so we could figure out why I tagged your walls in the first place. Maybe I was bored or maybe I needed to do something artistic. We would then figure out how to deal with my boredom or artistic needs that would prevent another graffiti incident and would give me an outlet. Actually, here at FREE LA, we have a Graf Room that students can use for tagging and other graffiti to prevent them from getting in trouble on the streets. We really take revolution seriously here. Every Friday, we attend a class, “Street University,” where we learn about how different systems work to oppress different groups of people. Then we organize and advocate for things that will empower us, our families and our community. Visit, call or email us: FREE L.A. High School, Chuco’s Justice Center 1137 E. Redondo Blvd., Inglewood, CA 90302 323.235.4243, FreeLANow@yahoo.com