Assemblymember Mike A. Gipson (center) is joined by Pastor James “J.J.” Jones (left); Sweet Alice Harris (right); foster and juvenile justice youth and organizations; and community leaders and residents gathered at the Kenneth Hahn Auditorium in Lynwood, CA in support of AB811. (courtesy photo)

Assemblymember Mike A. Gipson (D-Carson) was joined by former foster and juvenile justice youth; the Lucy Carter, Youth Law Center; Christina Parker and Jordan Sosa, California Youth Connection; Lily Wandick, former foster youth; Javier Casillas, LAUSD graduate and juvenile justice youth; Margie Garrett, Compton School Board member; Pastor James “J.J.” Jones, Watts Gang Taskforce; Sweet Alice Harris, Parents of Watts; Mr. & Mrs. Earl, Compton residents; 64th Assembly District Higher Education Commission and more in support of the Internet for All – Foster and Juvenile Justice Youth Act of 2017 (AB811).

“Technology affects every facet of life today and is particularly crucial for learning and communication,” said Assemblymember Gipson. “Without access to computers and the internet, youth in out-of-home placements cannot access online school assignments and materials, conduct online research and engage in normal day-to-day communications with friends and family.”

Earlier this year, Gipson introduced Assembly Bill 811 that requires access to the Internet for purposes of maintaining communication with family members and having access to educational resources.

Multiple studies have found that foster youth who are provided with laptops earn better grades and class attendance improved. Their self-esteem and life satisfaction also increased.

The group of concerned youth, parents, educators and community members gathered at the Kenneth Hahn Auditorium in Lynwood, California to collectively ask Governor Jerry Brown to sign the bill into law.

“There are young people now sitting in juvenile facilities with little or nothing to do because they have already completed their high school diplomas but there are no other academic programs available for them,” said Lucy Carter, Youth Law Center. “They could be starting college through online courses… connecting with good programs and good people who can help them build their lives when they get out.”

Christina Parker, college student and former foster youth, California Youth Connection explained, “…our educational system relies on the internet as a gateway to knowledge, which means that those who possess it hold a key and those who do not are denied equal access to knowledge. When only 10 percent are going on to higher education and two percent achieve a bachelor degree, the last thing we want to do is impede educational access for them.”

Jordan Sosa, college student, California Youth Connection shared, “When I was in the fourth grade, everyone was using USBs to download their assignments while I was still using a floppy disk because my foster mother didn’t know what a USB was or had the funds allocated to buy one… I remember going (sneaking off) to the public library just to learn how to use the Internet. I remember feeling lost when I had to submit my first high school assignment online… I remember feeling alone when I had to submit my first FAFSA (school loan) application because I was the first in my family to graduate high school.

Lily Wandick entered the foster system in the second grade. “…My foster mother didn’t let me contact my parents. Every time I asked, I was told to contact my worker or nothing at all… I was not able to contact people who loved me and I was in a strange environment. Foster kids are treated differently at home and at school. AB811 is a guidance tool to help youth become somebody in the future.

Javier Casillas spoke about the isolation and disconnect that juvenile justice youth feel from family and missed information about significant events like birth, weddings, graduations and death.

Assemblymember Gipson is urging the public to contact Governor Jerry Brown’s office at (916) 445-2841 and ask him to sign this bill AB811 and also AB878, that would restrict youth from being shackled while attending court dates, unless they were a danger to themselves or others. As a note, adults are not shackled.