Fix School Discipline Toolkit for Educators - Page 73

HIGHLIGHT: SUCCESS (STUDENTS UNITED TO CREATE A CLIMATE OF ENGAGEMENT, SUPPORT AND SAFETY) A project of the Youth Engagement Team Fresno, led by a coalition including the Youth Leadership Institute, Californians for Justice, The Center for Multicultural Cooperation, The Know Youth Media, Boys and Girls Clubs of Fresno County and Fresno Pacific University Interview with MaryJane Skjellerup (MaryJane), Former Senior Director of Programs, YLI and SUCCESS youth members Brooklyn Taylor (Brooklyn) and Miriam Hernandez (Miriam) How did you start organizing around the drop out and school climate issues in your community? Brooklyn: Two years ago, several organizations were looking at different issues related to school climate and drop out rates. For instance, Miriam and I also belong to Californians for Justice (CFJ), and we were starting to talk about these problems. Youth Leadership Institute (YLI) had conducted over 100 surveys with community members to understand the issues with school climate and drop out and find alternatives. MaryJane: Concerns about what was happening in our schools started bubbling up from the community. The California Endowment (the Endowment) had just identified Fresno as one of their communities for their Building Healthy Communities initiative (BHC). During the BHC planning process, the Endowment was looking at student attendance data. In the fall of 2010, our organization received funding from BHC to do research with a deliberate focus on what our young people were concerned about, namely the extraordinary amount of time that students were spending outside of school. For instance, we found that students had missed 32,180 school days because of suspension. Miriam: To deal with the school climate problems, SUCCESS was created from the membership and different groups that involved youth: YLI, Boys and Girls Club of Fresno County, The Know Youth Media Magazine, Fresno Pacific University Center for Peace and Conflict Studies and the Center for Multicultural Cooperation. How did you learn more about school discipline issues in Fresno? MaryJane: We gathered data about Fresno Unified School District from California Healthy Kids Survey, California School Climate Survey, California Department of Education Dataquest and the Office of Civil Rights, Civil Rights Data Collection, all of which can be searched online. We found that students missed 32, 180 days because of suspensions, that only 42% of students felt like they are a part of their school, and that only 22% of teachers strongly feel that discipline is handled effectively. From the surveys and data, we figured out what we wanted to know more about. Using this information, we created focus groups by engaging our different partners that worked with the students, such as the Boys and Girls Club. We asked them to get involved and send us students, parents and community members to participate in our focus groups. We asked the focus groups, “Why is this happening, why are so many students being suspended and dropping out of school?” Brooklyn: We learned that a lot of students didn’t feel like there was an adult who cares about them at school and that they don’t feel safe at school. That was a big pattern; students always got bad feedback from their teachers and a lot of teachers and staff would belittle them and treat them like they were lesser. Miriam: Students said that they felt like they were just going to school and that’s all that mattered. No one cared what they were going through at home. 71