Reimagining/Decolonizing School Safety x Inner City Struggle

Written by: Fernando Deveras 

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One of the most powerful gifts we can offer our familias is space to reflect. When we are given room to examine the oppressive narratives and paradigms that we’ve been taught, we can begin the work of detaching ourselves from those narratives/paradigms that we have internalized from generation to generation. For many of our families, this space has always been out of reach; a luxury for those with more resources and support. And some of us make the mistake of believing that our people are too set in their ways to see things differently. We mistakenly fall into the deficit mindset where we tell ourselves that terms like “nonviolence” and “decolonization” will just go over their heads. But in reality, we are ALL capable of understanding the framework of nonviolence and decolonization when we are given space to reflect.

Earlier this month, we hosted a workshop for a group of powerful señoras, organized by the beautiful team at Inner City Struggle from East Los Angeles. ICS is doing the incredible work of helping families to reflect on the punitive and carceral models of school safety that we commonly see (police on campus, suspensions, tickets and citations for students, etc.). The goal is to help families reach the space where they can reimagine what a school actually needs in order to create a safe environment for students to learn and grow. It’s an important mission and something that our communities desperately need to talk about.

We know that many families in the Latino community worry about school safety. They see the kind of violence that happens on school campuses; fights breaking out and videos of the fights being shared on social media. They hear about kids bringing weapons to school, kids using drugs in the restrooms, school shootings in America becoming more and more common. They see all this, and naturally they reach out for whatever they think will help make their kids safer. Unfortunately, what we see is that too many parents have a limited idea of what safety can look like. They tend to call for things like more police officers and security on campus to stop fights, metal detectors at the entrance to check for weapons, random drug tests for students, etc. These all sound like very practical solutions to the problems, but what these proposed solutions don’t do is get to the root cause of these problems.

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Instead of sending police in to break up fights, let’s figure out why our kids are fighting in the first place and teach them how to resolve conflicts without violence. Instead of metal detectors to catch the weapons, ask ourselves what kind of culture we’re creating on campus that makes our students feel so threatened that they feel the need to arm themselves. Instead of random drug tests, let’s support the mental health of our students so they don’t resort to self medicating to deal with their stresses and traumas. Better yet, let’s work to reduce or completely eliminate the stresses and traumas.

If we’re serious about addressing safety for our students, then we need to get to the root of the problem. We need to build a culture of connection, care, and community where kids feel welcome and supported. School staff and parents need to be supported so that they can work to build that culture. And resources, tools, trainings need to be made available to everyone involved so that we can develop a shared vocabulary and practice of connection, care, and community.

But all of that begins with giving our people space for reflection so we can set a new intention to build towards that vision of a better world for our familias.

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