Standing up for our immigrant students and their families

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This piece originally ran at Education Leaders of Color and was written by Mary Moran, a member of EdLoC and the co-founder of Our Voice Nuestra Voz (OVNV), an education advocacy and parent organizing start-up in New Orleans.


Imagine yourself at six years old, likely in first grade. You get on the bus or walk with your parents to school every day. When you walk into a classroom, you are learning to read, add and subtract, and retell stories. Now imagine you are the parent of that child. At home, you’re focused on reading with your kids and staying up to date on what’s happening in school—with their classmates, with their teachers, and with other parents. You’re probably not talking to your kids about what might happen if you don’t come home one day.

But for far too many students and families their daily routines have been upended and replaced with conversations about what might happen if mom or dad is detained or deported by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This is the fear that our immigrant communities are living with every day: fear that parents will be detained, like Rómulo Avélica-González, while dropping off their children at school, that their siblings will be detained on their way to school or that they will have zero protections in this country should they ever need them.

I run Nuestra Voz in New Orleans, an organization working to build the capacity of parents to advocate for access to great schools for their children. In our communities, families are dealing with fear of all law enforcement, as well as anxiety and uncertainty. The families with whom we work are keeping their kids home from school for fear of the ongoing ICE raids in New Orleans, Jefferson Parish, and Metairie. They also see children being bullied in school if those schools have not created cultures where our immigrant students feel safe and supported. In a system that is often touted as a model for what schools can do for kids, many of our most vulnerable students and families, particularly Latino families, are invisible.

We need to stand up for our families right now. When the threat of deportation prevents families from sending their children to school, we all feel the impact of loss of instructional time, lower student enrollment, and the need to deal (or not) with student trauma. But there are schools and systems who are showing up for our communities right now in many ways. They:

  • Reassure families that under FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) as well as local privacy acts, schools must have written permission from parents to release any information
  • Enact policies that affirm that you are on the side of the families and students and that students are safe within your schools.
  • Create support groups for immigrant students or children of immigrants so they can address the trauma with which families are dealing.
  • Hold Know Your Rights trainings for parents, teachers and counselors to combat the misinformation.
  • Coordinate with local human services so you have a plan in place for what happens with children if they are separated from their parents.

Now is the time to show up for our students and their families. I hope you will join Nuestra Voz and many other systems and schools in speaking out for our most vulnerable students and their families.

During these uncertain times in our country, it’s pretty easy to see who is with you and who is not. Where are you?

For more resources to support immigrant students and families, please visit: http://edloc.org/blog-Post-Election-Resources.html

NAACP Hearing Reveals Unsurprising Rift Over Charter Schools

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The battle of wills between charter school advocates and opponents continued last Thursday, February 9th, at the NAACP’s special hearing on charter schools in Los Angeles.

The hearing, held at the Deaton Civic Auditorium at LAPD Headquarters, convened some of the city’s most seasoned veterans and dedicated professionals in the education field.

The first part of the hearing was structured to allow ten guest speakers from different sides of the charter school debate to address NAACP’s Task Force on Quality Education. After each oral presentation, the Task Force was given the chance to ask speakers more probing questions.

The 11-member Task Force included Alice Huffman (Chair), Michael Curry, Hazel Dukes, Scot Esdaile, James Gallman, John Jackson, Daquan Love, Dora Nweze, Peter Rose, Gloria Sweet-Love, Derrick Johnson, and Robin Williams.

With few exceptions, the speakers fell into two opposing camps: those who focused on the promise of charter schools and those who, instead, fixated on its problems.

Among those who spoke favorably of charter schools were: Margaret Fortune, CEO of Fortune Schools; Chris Ungar, Ex-President, California Charter School Association (CCSA); Christina De Jesus, CEO of Green Dot Public Schools California

Jonathan Williams, CEO of Accelerated Schools; and Gene Fisher Founder of Watts Learning Center.

One of the most compelling stories of charter school success came from NAACP member, Margarete Fortune, who leads a chain of charter schools in Sacramento and San Bernardino that are top-ranked in California on measures of academic performance.

“There is a reason why black parents are choosing to send their kids to Fortune schools. The traditional school districts in our community woefully under-serve black students,” she said.

Presenters on the opposing side, who dwelled largely on the flaws of charter schools, were fewer in number, but just as opinionated. They included Jose Acala of California Teachers Association; Cecily Myart-Cruz, VP of United Teachers Los Angeles; and Dr. Julian Heilig-Vasquez, Professor at Sacramento State.

The most passionate speech from the opposition came from Cecily Myart-Cruz, a head of United Teachers Los Angeles. With a booming voice and deep conviction, she held no bars in exposing the faults she saw with charter schools. “CCSA and charter operators want to gloss over the issues that the NAACP moratorium highlights: transparency, accountability, and the impacts on the public school system from unregulated charter growth.”

Moderate voices such as George McKenna were hard to find. In his speech, he neither praised nor vilified charter schools. A self-proclaimed pragmatist with over 50 years of experience in education, his chief concern was bridging the rift between the two sides. He insisted that “the charter and public schools today, have to work together, whether we like it or not.” For him, it seemed non-negotiable. He added, “these children are too precious to be ignored.”

The NAACP Task Force did little to unify the polarized groups. The national leaders opted, instead, to maintain a neutral stance during the session. Rosyln Brock, NAACP Board Chair, placed the NAACP in a position to volley between sides. “If your charter school is working well, it’s accountable, has transparency… continue to do what you’re doing,” Brock said. But then added, “However, if your charter school is throwing out Jamal and Jimmy and Jereeka. And you’re letting Alice and Susan stay in school … we’re here for those who are left in our community.”

To be fair, fostering collaboration between the brain trust that had gathered in Deaton Auditorium last week was not the NAACP’s stated purpose.

Brock made it clear that “We [the Board] are here to listen and to learn.” She continued, “we would like a moratorium, a pause, for us to have a conversation and a dialogue about the opportunity to educate our children.”

Despite hours of discussion, the fact that few solutions were explored at this meeting calls into question whether these type of dialogue-heavy hearings are a worthwhile use of NAACP’s time and resources.

Dialogue is fine. But action is better. And the verdict is still out on whether the National Task Force can translate the knowledge gained from these hearings into meaningful policy action.


Erica Copeland lives in Los Angeles where she counsels high school youth through the college admission process. She wrote this for the blog One Public Education.

NAACP’s Charter School Task Force Meets Resistance in Los Angeles

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Hands off our charter schools!

That was the message delivered to the NAACP by charter parents, students and educators in an outdoor press conference ahead of the civil rights organization’s education hearing held at the Los Angeles Police Department Headquarters. The NAACP is currently engaged in a series of hearings around the country to hear from a variety of experts and community members about the organization’s call for a moratorium on charter schools.

That moratorium, passed by the historic civil rights group in October of 2016, has received heavy push-back from the African-American community as well as charter advocates who argue that it doesn’t align with the well-documented attitudes of parents who want more educational choices for their children.

The news conference, organized by the California Charter School Association, featured signs, t-shirts and pointed speeches condemning the NAACP policy. Students shared success stories of overcoming adversity at home and in their communities which they attributed to their charter schools. Educators spoke of the flexibility they have to customize their programs to the needs of their students.

“Black children have found solace in attending charter programs and many are finding greater acceptance and achieving greater victories” – Carmen Taylor Jones, National Council of Negro Women.

Educators and administrators from local charter schools also gave impassioned pleas to the NAACP to reconsider their call for a halt on expansion of the sector, noting charters are a viable option having positive results for many marginalized communities in California.

Following the press conference outside, the community members filled in the L.A. Police Department Auditorium, to take part in the hearing on charter schools and educational quality.

Margaret Fortune, CEO of Fortune School of Education, a network of K-12 public charter schools focused on closing the African American achievement gap, gave perhaps the most passionate testimony to the task force. In a reoccurring theme for the charter advocates that spoke, she noted that she is a card-holding member of the organization, but could not wrap her head around the idea that they would call for a halt to a system that is showing results with so many Black children.

“The charters and public schools today have to work together. Charter schools exist because of dissatisfaction with public schools” – George McKenna, LAUSD District 1 Board Member. 

Fortune and several others who gave testimony lamented the division caused by the moratorium, noting that it was a “distraction” that was dividing, rather than empowering the community to work together to fight for quality education regardless of school type.

Similar to the most recent hearing in Orlando, Florida, the task force listened to testimony from a variety of speakers advocating both for and against the moratorium. Speakers at this event included charter school founders and advocates, teachers union representatives, school board members and unlike the previous hearing, a relatively large group of parents, teachers, and students.

The final segment of the hearing, a time designated for comments and questions from these stakeholders, showed more of the division between those in attendance, with speakers alternating between supporting and condemning the charter moratorium.

One thing was clear from the outset: these California charter families and advocates have and will continue to organize to stop the NAACP and any other body from limiting their educational options.

BREAKING: President Trump signs executive order repealing Common Core state standards

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During last year’s presidential campaign then-candidate Donald Trump said “Common Core is a total disaster. We can’t let it continue.”

Today he made good on his campaign promise to end those controversial standards.

Advocates for the standards were dismayed, but not shocked by the move. Earlier today Trump’s “Counselor,” Kellyanne Conway, signaled the repeal was coming, telling CNN the president would soon take action.

“He wants to repeal common core. He doesn’t think that federal standards are better than local and parental control,” she said.

By moving to curtail Common Core standards, Trump ends months of speculation by experts on whether or not the president has the power to halt federally mandated curriculum and education standards by the stroke of a pen.

Last year, on the heels of Trump’s election victory, the Fordham Institute’s Michael Petrilli doubted it could be done.

“[Common Core is] not an issue any president has much say over — academic standards are under the firm control of the state,” he wrote.

For background, the Common Core standards were authored in 2009 at a private meeting hosted by Bill Gates, in conjunction with Barack Obama, representatives from Pearson, and several back up dancers for Lady Gaga.

Critics say the intent was to confuse parents with complicated homework assignments that would leave them defenseless to help their children. That and to turn schools into “government indoctrination camps.”

A report by the Southern Poverty Law Center gives voice to many anti-common core activists who fear the standards will turn children into ” homosexual slaves of a future totalitarian global government.”

For now, the White House says America’s children are safe from that threat.

Citizen Malarkey is the newest contributor to Citizen Ed. He is a suburban entrepreneur and freelance writer of news that doesn’t exist for people who don’t know better. He writes completely plausible commentary for several legitimate-looking news sites.

Even when we have video showing brutalization of black students, it isn’t enough

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You remember the video from 2015. A black student ripped from her chair by a Richland County Sheriff’s Deputy – Ben Fields – and flung across the floor like a bag of beans.

The incident caused outrage and a national discussion about the existence of police officers in public schools, which led to a federal investigation. Now that investigation is done and it concluded “the evidence was insufficient to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Fields willfully deprived the Spring Valley High School student of a constitutional right”

The video, graphic and horrendous, wasn’t enough.

Fields is suing the Sheriff department that fired him after the incident. He claims there is an internal affairs memo explaining his actions were within the bounds of department policy.

Let that sink in as you watch this again:

If that is acceptable within the guidelines of police department policy, reasonable people should admit that department policy is jacked and must be changed.

Here’s a kicker to it all: Fields claim his former employer took action on him after the incident because he is white.

“The unlawful conduct particularly implicated herein includes, but is not limited to: intentionally disadvantaging white employees in matters involving black individuals and disparate treatment to white employees with regard to the terms and conditions of their employment, and unequal treatment with regards to decisions to hire and fire,” his suit says.

These dramas, played out in the news and social media, do so little to examine the violation of the black students. In this case it was a student brutalized before her classmates (and then the world through a viral video), and another student, Niya Kenny, who documented the incident with her cellphone and was arrested by Fields for doing so. She never returned to Spring Valley, opting to finish her high school career by getting and GED instead.

Listen to Kenny’s account given to Ed Week:

This is a problem for us

An analysis done by Ed Week found a strong presence of school resource officers accompanied by disproportionate arrests of students.

They say 46% of high schools, 42% of elementary schools, and 18% of elementary schools have an onsite school resource officer. Those officers are sometimes trained for their unique role in public schools, but often they lack special training.

While black students make up 16% of public school students overall, the represent 33% of those arrested at school.

A 2013 Congressional report found schools with SRO’s can “deter students from committing assaults on campus,” but students “might be more likely to be arrested for low level offenses.”

On that problem criminal justice journalist Gary Fields  says “A generation ago, schoolchildren caught fighting in the corridors, sassing a teacher or skipping class might have ended up in detention. Today, there’s a good chance they will end up in police custody.”

Examples? Gary Fields has them:

“In Texas, a student got a misdemeanor ticket for wearing too much perfume. In Wisconsin, a teen was charged with theft after sharing the chicken nuggets from a classmate’s meal—the classmate was on lunch assistance and sharing it meant the teen had violated the law, authorities said. In Florida, a student conducted a science experiment before the authorization of her teacher; when it went awry she received a felony weapons charge.”

While most parents, educators, and community members agree students need to be safe in school, and making that so may be more difficult as schools educate students increasingly coming from under-resourced communities, there is concern schools are using police officers to take action in routine school discipline matters.

The consequence: more students with criminal records.

An ACLU report called “arrested futures” says schools “have every right to hold disruptive students accountable,” but “criminalizing” through arrests makes students three times more likely to drop out. Students who drop out are eight times more likely to end up in the criminal justice system.

That amounts to taking the “to” out of “school-to-prison pipeline.”

“While some school districts use on-site officers to apprehend students who pose a real and immediate threat to the physical safety of those around them, others predominantly use these officers to enforce their code of student conduct. In such districts, officers are encouraged to arrest, in many cases using public order offenses as a justification, students who are unruly, disrespectful, use profanity, or show attitude,” the report says.

In the end this isn’t about Niya Kenny’s viral video of an out-of-control Ben Fields, or even the presence of officers in schools. It’s about the widespread failure to see black students as fully human, as typical youth, and as individuals with unsurpassable worth rather than threatening walking stereotypes that must be punished and made to conform.

That may not be a problem specific just to public education, but public schools, given the charge of nurturing the nation’s children, certainly have a higher calling to do better than this.

For a look at the case against using school resource officers, read “Education Under Arrest,’ a report by the Justice Policy Institute.

Education Under Arrest by Citizen Stewart on Scribd