During the week of June 17th, we partnered with Save Girls on F.Y.E.R., and the National Women’s Law Center on a campaign to raise awareness about Waterbury’s school-to-prison pipeline. We planned with and trained some of Waterbury’s greatest assets. In preparation, Jacquee Porter-Sanders’ program participants at S.G.O.F. spent numerous Saturdays learning about advocacy and developing self-awareness, especially being aware of the dire circumstances associated with being a Black or Brown girl in our schools. We learned that our Black and Brown girls are tough, smart, as well as socially and emotionally aware of who they are and what they desire. Simply put, they desire fairness, freedom, and opportunities for an equitable educational experience. Opportunities to be trained and join the campaign are coming soon.
After months of planning the National Women’s Law Center’s team of Alexandra Brodsky, Loredana Valtierra and Kayla Patrick traveled from Washington, D.C. and spent time hosting Listening Tours with Black and Brown girls who attend Waterbury schools. These sessions were designed to be safe spaces where open and honest dialogue could take place. It did. It’s clear that many of our Black and Brown girls experience the negative impacts of unchecked implicit and explicit bias while attending schools here in Waterbury. Once their personal narratives were matched with the troubling discipline disparities one thing was clear. Our schools need to change.
On Saturday, June 17th we co-hosted a Know Your Rights Seminar. Alexandra, Loredana, and Kayla related to our attendees’ information on student rights. They covered everything from Title IX, rights for students who are pregnant, and protections for students covered under Title VI. Joining the team from the NWLC was Connecticut Attorney Michael Gilberg. Atty. Gilberg explained the basics of special education law and procedure. We are especially thankful for his participation.
Last Saturday also served as the launching pad of the #PushOutPushBack #ProsperNotPrison #WeCan stop the school-to-prison pipeline in Waterbury Campaign. This campaign is focused on eliminating the use of exclusionary discipline policies in the Waterbury Public Schools. The need to eliminate the overuse as well as misuse of out-of-school suspensions in Waterbury was recently put on the national stage when 156 students were suspended in one-day at Wilby High School.
Our campaign is being co-led by students and parents. The primary goals of the campaign will be to raise awareness about the school-to-prison pipeline; raise awareness about the extremely high use of suspensions in the Waterbury Public Schools; to address our elected officials and hold them accountable for producing a school governance model that places academic performance as the number one priority; and to create enough social capital to be able to leverage that power to ensure parents and students are recognized as partners in policy change at the school, district, and state level.