Shifting suspension practices for students of color
Long Beach students and parents were concerned about high suspension rates and a lack of resources to support those who need the most help. With suspensions failing to engage root causes of challenges, many students were kept out of schools and ultimately prevented them from reaching their full potential. The absence of a cohesive effort for low-income families to problem-solve with school officials and hold them accountable, meant there weren’t funds to support these students even though there was money allocated for this purpose. Long Beach Forward approached this gap by organizing youth and parents around these severe disciplinary practices that disproportionately affected students of color and made it harder for them to learn and graduate.
Long Beach Forward (formerly Building Healthy Communities: Long Beach Hub) helped create a youth group where young people took the lead and organized around the issues of high suspension rates and the lack of support for them and their peers. In Spring 2013, the group launched the Every Student Matters campaign, the first youth-led campaign of its kind in Long Beach. When the groups didn’t have the resources to organize the parents, Long Beach Forward brought together parent groups to join their efforts. Long Beach Forward has since facilitated hundred of students and parents to speak out at school board meetings, meet with school authorities, and rally at Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) headquarters to push for school discipline reform and funding for students who need the most support. When advocates were ready, Long Beach Forward helped parents, legal services groups, and policy experts to file a formal complaint with the school authorities.
Students and parents have become empowered to raise their voice and work together towards a viable solution in a way they hadn’t done before. In Fall 2013, the school district passed a school discipline resolution, which recognized alternatives to suspensions and a handful of schools have since implemented similar forms of alternative disciplinary measures. In the 2013-14 school year, school suspensions dropped by a third- or by a whopping 2,000 compared- with 2012-13. In response to the formal complaint brought by parents and community organizations, the Los Angeles County Office of Education in Fall 2017 found that LBUSD had misallocated $24 million in funds meant to increase or improve services for students who need the most support. In Spring 2018, parents and legal services groups reached a settlement with the district that would increase services to high-needs students and support improved community engagement in developing the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP). The combination of resources and support have helped people push for solutions that will have lasting impacts on their schools for generations to come.