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Reimagine & Rebuild: A Vision for Racially Just Schools

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For most of us, public schools are foundational to getting a good start in life. However, the pandemic has exposed the generational inequities that have and will only continue to harm Black, Indigenous, Asian American and Pacific Islander, and Latinx students if we stick with the status quo.

Instead we must set our sights on transforming schools to center racial justice by taking a restorative, whole-child approach that centers students' voices.

California public schools now have a record amount of state and federal funding, upwards of $34 billion, to help students and schools restart and recover from the pandemic.

Californians for Justice is calling on adult and youth leaders from the classroom to the boardroom to seize this abundance of resources to act courageously through these 6 student-centered solutions for racial justice.

Students, staff, and families have experienced a lot of change and trauma in the past 12+ months. The system needs to provide the space and time to prioritize whole child needs, re-engagement and relationships, and to begin transforming our education system for the long-term. Every district should use about 6 weeks—over the summer, as a summer bridge, or at the start of the school year—for a restorative restart to:

  • Center relationships between families, students, and educators
  • Identify and plan to address the unique social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs of every student
  • Strengthen staffing and deepen community-based partnerships to address students’ individualized learning and mental health needs
  • Prioritize racial equity, relevance, and rigor in curriculum and instruction Lay the groundwork for systemic transformation

 

“We can’t go back to normal. Normal wasn’t working for a lot of people, especially students of color. We must work together with decision-makers to create a school where we are comfortable and can succeed. I don’t want to go back to a classroom, I want to go back to a community.”
- Melisa, High School Freshman, Oakland

 

To learn more about the Restorative Restart visit www.reimagineCAschools.org.

96% of students say mental health & wellness is important to their ideal vision of school, but only 37% say their schools are doing it well.

 

Students support investments in:

  • Community schools & wellness centers
  • Leadership of students & families of color to address mental health stigmas
  • More counselors & social workers

 

“I’ve heard many people say that we must go back to “normal” and focus on the education of students first but the pre-pandemic ‘normal’ neglected the mental health and education of our Black and Brown students.”
-- Julisa, High School Senior, San Jose

 

District’s should also commit to significant and ongoing investment in mental health and wellness resources for students and staff. Prioritizing mental health can be achieved in many different ways, including investments in community schools and wellness centers, hiring more counselors and supporting leadership of students and families of color as they address mental health stigma.

95% of students say student voice is important to their ideal vision of school, but only 46% say their schools are doing it well.

Student committees to decide how to recover from the pandemic

  • Student voice in co-creating their individual “learning and wellness recovery” plans
  • Increase peer mentoring & support opportunities Student surveys combined with conversations (“street data”)

 

“The most important solution to me isn’t opening schools A.S.A.P. What’s more important is having more time and resources to address students’ personal needs that haven’t been addressed before or during the pandemic.”
--Kayla, High School Senior, Long Beach
 

92% of students say racial equity in curriculum and teaching is important to their ideal vision of school, but only 49% say their schools are doing it well.


Students support investments in:

  • Racial bias, anti-racist teaching training for staff
  • Rethink workload and schedules to create more time for ethnic studies, mental health, extracurriculars, and life skills
  • Integrate project-based, student & identity-driven learning into all courses

 

“I'm going to be honest. I've learned more about Black, Hispanic/Latino, Asian, LGBTQ+, etc. history on apps, like TikTok or Twitter, than I have in school. Also, they need to stop trying to sugarcoat American history. It's ridiculous!”
10th grader, Fresno Unified School District
 

82% of students say relationships between students and staff are important to their ideal vision of school, but only 41% say their schools are doing it well.


Students support investments in:

  • Restorative justice throughout the school
  • Every student receives at least 3 one-on-one calls with a trusted adult
  • Advisories, smaller academies/pathways

 

“Making these resources available will be key, especially for students who need it most. Having support and feeling heard makes me want to learn and stay engaged in what I’m learning.”
-- Isabel, High School Sophomore, Fresno

 

This a unique opportunity to provide schools with resources to make long-term changes for racial equity. This means going beyond programs, training or staff positions by developing a whole-school approach to transformation in partnership with stakeholders.

  • Co-create a “racial equity redesign plan” with students and families of color, educators, and community partners
  • Integrate mental health and wellness, racial equity in curriculum and teaching, student voice, and relationships
  • Build school and system capacity to address systemic racism through professional learning networks, technical assistance, etc.
  • Provide significant, multi-year funding

 

“We hear ‘it’s up to the teacher,’ but actually, if we had a plan across the board we could really get somewhere.”
-- Megan, High School Junior, Long Beach
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