Community Forum Series Yields Powerful Experiences and Troubling Revelations

On April 30, 2019, RACCE convened its last of four community forums by hosting a student round table. Students ranged from 4th grade to 11th grade. Students discussed their concerns on school climate, school-based arrests and school resource officers, and the overuse of school suspensions by the Waterbury Public Schools.  Students also spoke about access to the new superintendent and the ways the schools are working or not working for them. In total there were approximately 75 community members that attended this series.

These meetings were organized by RACCE with support from Resist Foundation who supports people’s movements for justice and liberation, after the Waterbury Police Department reported to the school board and Superintendent Ruffin in February that there had been 897 police-led interventions that resulted in 211 arrests in the first 100 days of school under the management of Superintendent Ruffin.  

Watch the video to see the police report on their activity in our schools!

This extremely high number of arrests and police-led interventions is deeply disturbing.  As an organization, we reached out to families of students and the school board members.  We didn’t get a response from the school board but parents and community members did respond by showing up and engaging in important conversations.  See the document below for more understanding of school-to-prison pipeline in Waterbury. 

In a seemingly contradictory and flawed decision-making process the newly appointed Superintendent, Verna Ruffin has increased police presence in our schools and has unilaterally contracted with the police department on a pre-arrest diversion program that is very problematic.  The program has been evaluated and reviewed by juvenile justice experts and all have confirmed that it is very problematic.  Yet, Superintendent Ruffin and the school board continue to ignore the experts and the community. 

We are demanding police free schools and a budgetary commitment to add (10) school counselors, (10) school social workers, and (10) school psychologists increasing the total number from around 100 to 130. 

Our series of community meetings yielded many important findings.  Below we will outline the concerns, questions, and solutions from parents, students, community members, and issue experts.

Students as young as 8 yrs. old who are involved in a physical altercation at school have the police called on them and are criminally investigated. Some students are arrested, some are not, and in some instances, Waterbury police have investigated the families at their homes. 

Parents, students, and community members want the police-led diversion program eliminated. We believe full support should be given to the juvenile review board facilitated by Waterbury Youth Services.  See the memo in the slide show.

Most educators, clinicians, and juvenile justice issue experts believe police free schools are desirable over schools with police.  Read this report by CT VOICES FOR CHILDREN.

The Waterbury Police Department withholds important documents from parents/guardians even though state law allows them to access redacted police reports.  See section 46b-124 of Connecticut General Statutes. We have requested that the Chief of Police and the city’s Corporation Counsel immediately end their policy of withholding access to these records.

Parents and students made it clear that they don’t know their rights.  Parents and students are interested in organizing Know Your Rights Seminars. 

Parents and students shared that sometimes police are needed in schools. But would like to have their voices heard and their advice acted upon by the superintendent.

Students want to have full and fair student elections for student representatives on the school board.

Students want more community school models implemented so that every student has access to wrap around services at their school.

Students want more access to teachers that share their race or ethnicity. 

Students are concerned that their white counterparts are treated better than they are—academically and socially by school staff.

Join our Allies Network to keep updated on our events and actions! Sign Up

To support our Fall 2019 Know Your Rights Series for Students and Parents send a check to
Radical Advocates for Cross-Cultural Education
C/O Achieve Hartford
221 Main St. Hartford, CT 06106
or use VENMO @RACCE to make a donation!
Note = KYRS

Categories: Current Issues

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