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04/27/2018 | Organizing for Education Justice

Youth of Color Call for Racial Justice in Gun Reform and School Safety

On the anniversary of Freddie Gray’s death and to commemorate the anniversary of the Columbine tragedy, more than 20 mostly Black and Brown-led youth organizations, representing thousands of youth of color from across the country, published a petition calling attention to their demands in the ongoing  debate around school safety, gun control and violence against youth.  You can  support this platform by signing on to their petition.

The #YouthDemand statement and petition was endorsed by numerous national organizations, alliances and networks, including the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD), the Advancement Project, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), Journey for Justice, the Alliance to Reclaim our Schools (AROS), the Alliance for Educational Justice (AEJ), Dream Defenders, National Education Association (NEA), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and many other allies.

The #YouthDemand statement highlights the already deeply entrenched ‘school-to-prison pipeline,’ and makes a compelling demand for reforms for school safety and gun control that do not involve increased policing, surveillance and doubling down on policies that criminalize of youth of color at their schools.

As the youth stated in their letter:  

“While people take up the debate around school safety and gun control with new energy, the debate itself is nothing new. We know this because we are the Black and Brown young people who have been at the forefront of these debates,” say the youth in their letter. “When we go to school we are being prepared for prison more than we are being prepared for life. We see guns, and as Black and Brown children we know they are more likely to be used against us than to protect us. We are dehumanized by dogs sniffing our backpacks, harassed by police through invasive body searches and metal detectors, stripped of our privacy as officials rifle through our lockers, and surveilled by cameras as they capture our every move. This is our current reality –  a school environment that treats us as suspects, as criminals.”

To change this reality, young people demanded:

  • Divestment from school policing.

  • Comprehensive mental and emotional health services.

  • More guidance counselors and social workers.

  • Expansion of restorative justice practices.

  • Culturally Responsive Education.

  • Investment in schools and teachers.

  • Protection for students and families from ICE arrests.

  • A concrete plan to end gun and state violence in all of its forms.

Several national organizations and youth-led campaigns adopted the demands into campaigns pressuring local governments and school districts to end over-policing in schools. Already, the demands have been adopted by a number of groups leading youth-led campaigns to end the school-to-prison pipeline, including Leaders Igniting Transformation in Milwaukee, the Urban Youth Collaborative in New York City, and others.

These students are turning this moment into political action as they plan to use these demands as a platform to evaluate upcoming political candidates and to hold elected officials accountable and to keep campaigning for racial justice. They are the generation coming up in the age of the murder of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and many more like them. They are a generation of Black, Brown and transgender communities experiencing institutionalized racism and state violence on a daily basis. Just a few weeks ago they saw the news of Brennan Walker, the 14 year-old Black youth in Detroit, who was shot while stopping to ask for directions.

Youth chose to mourn the death of Freddie Gray at the same time as commemorating the anniversary of the Columbine tragedy. Their letter demands an end to violence and the criminalization of young people in their schools and communities as a critical part of the need to ensure school safety, for students and youth of color in particular.

Please support these young people by signing on to their demands and using this social media toolkit to share their statement widely.