On Monday the Children’s Defense Fund hosted a forum at City Hall for public officials, community organizations and youth advocates to discuss school safety and keeping violence out of the classroom.
Since the shooting in Newtown, Conn. last December, there have been major waves of demand for policy change and action in school safety. To address this call for action, the Children’s Defense Fund, a nonprofit that serves underprivileged children, to evaluate what schools and the community could do to help increase school safety on a local basis.
The forum had two panels: the first discussing the role of policy, the second discussing the role of the youth. There was also a presentation highlighting the results of a telephone survey from California voters regarding their opinions of school safety in the state.
The survey showed that voters would rather take a preventive approach than a reactive approach. Of the nearly 1,200 people surveyed, about half of them said they felt schools in California are somewhat safe and half were concerned with things like violence in schools, the potential for school shootings and the lack of safety in schools.
But it was the youth’s opinion that drove discussion at the forum.
Young men and women representing specific youth organizations in the area all agreed that two things need to happen: there needs to be more extracurricular activities and things to do after school and someone like a counselor to just listen to what they have to say and guide them to a better path.
Youth organizations represented at the forum included RYSE, Youth ALIVE and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
“Smooth” Wickliff, a member of Youth ALIVE, pointed out that not only do they need that counselor-like figure, but it has to be someone who grew up in the area. Finding someone who can relate to them and knows what they are going through as teenagers is better than “criminalizing” them and assuming they know the students’ problems, he said.
Participants were also given information of two bills that affect schools: Assembly Bill 814, which will remove attendance requirements in order to receive welfare for poor families, and Assembly Bill 549, which requires school funding for campus safety and creating guidelines for adults on campuses. The goal is to get the public to be part of a solution to violence in schools.
“You’re either part of the problem or part of the solution. It’s very cut and dry,” said Joseph Marshall, executive director of the Omega Boys Club. “And a lot of adults and young people tend to be part of the problem.”