Fix School Discipline Toolkit for Educators - Page 74

What did you do with the survey data and the information you received from the focus groups? MaryJane: We then spent a year teasing out the themes of these focus groups, learning more about data analysis, analyzing data, and setting goals. YLI worked with the members of SUCCESS on team building. We went slowly, which is good so members of the collaborative group have a good sense of what is happening and what their roles are. We had a team retreat that was so important. Things can fall apart quickly if you don’t remind yourselves about your goals and message. Other people and organizations were coming to us asking, “Do you want to take on the Superintendent?” and that’s another political issue that was not ours. We wanted to work with the school district, schools and Superintendent to increase student attendance, graduation and the rates of students going to college. Miriam: We also spent that year, meeting for at least an hour after school, once a week to be trained in research, how to talk to school board administration, and what we wanted to change. Then, after that year we had a SUCCESS Conference. About 110 people, students of all ages, teachers, FUSD administration, courts, police enforcement, and community members attended the Conference. MaryJane: There was a data board with charts and graphs detailing what we learned with focus groups. We had a panel presentation about rights and responsibilities. For instance, people from the school district explained the suspension/expulsion and attendance rules while people from the American Civil Liberties Union talked about due process and civil rights. A police officer and judge also spoke about their experiences with students in the juvenile and criminal justice area. We also learned about Restorative Justice from a professor from Fresno Pacific University who wrote a book called Discipline That Restores. After this conference and receiving all of this information, what did YLI and SUCCESS do next? Miriam: After the conference, SUCCESS decided on pursuing Restorative Justice as a policy that the Fresno Unified School District should adopt and decided that we wanted to meet with the Superintendent. 72 How we can fix school discipline How did you convince the Superintendent to meet with a group of students and community organizations? MaryJane: Our district had a sense that discipline is a problem and could admit that publicly to a certain extent. Fresno Unified views students as a powerful force so it was pretty easy to get a meeting with the Superintendent because we had done our homework and knew our issue. SUCCESS caught the District’s eye because people who worked at the District attended the SUCCESS conference. It also helped that news stories were coming out in the Fresno Bee about suspensions and the drop out rate in Fresno. Additionally, we had also built the relationship, so all we did was send an email and work out scheduling. It’s really important to develop relationships. To build the relationship, you should go to every Board meeting and have a conversation with the administrators there, including the Superintendent, and talk to them as humans. The District people and Superintendent have to be at these Board meetings and you have their attention during the down times while nothing is happening; they can’t go anywhere. Tell them who you are and your goals. Keep conversation grounded in the bigger goal. We aren’t coming after anyone; we just want to focus on what’s good for our children and youth. What happened in the meetings with the Superintendent and what were the results? MaryJane: At the first meeting with the Superintendent, we presented the data to him in a PowerPoint. He saw that we had really done our homework and understood the problem, and he realized that we were a legitimate group. The Superintendent was very receptive. He said, “We know about these problems too but there are considerations and barriers to fixing the problem.” For instance, scalability was an issue. The big question with scalability is, “How do you implement a solution for 74,000 students and 8,000 staff?” But that’s always an issue and that’s why he’s in charge, but we are willing to help prepare students and families to embrace the changes that were about to result. We had an honest conversation about the lack of will to take on the drop out crisis and racial disparities in discipline. We also proposed Restorative Justice as an alternative. This first