The Children’s Defense Fund-California recently released “Unhidden Figures: Examining the Characteristics of Justice Involved Youth in Los Angeles County,” and the Sentinel caught up with author Betty Fang to discuss its significance.
“This was an attempt to centralize data,” said Fang during an interview with the Sentinel last month.
“The outcome we would like to see is that [the study] sparks more dialog about students’ learning needs in the community.”
Some of the most significant findings of the report suggest that learning environments for youth who are often involved in the justice, need learning environments that affirm their identities. Their identities, said the author, range from being foster youth, in special education, part of the LGBTQ community to simply coming from low-income households and having lived through adverse childhood experiences. It is necessary to do this, she said, because then resources can begin to be coordinated and are responsive to students’ needs.
“Justice-involved students often encounter punitive school discipline before becoming system-involved, and most have endured high levels of instability and interruptions to instructional time,” Fang expressed in the study’s results.
“Despite this, justice-involved students remain committed to their education and aspirations, though they are oftentimes denied the supports they deserve to fully thrive…”
Even more significant is the fact that among JI youth, Blacks are the highest represented group.
Also according to the study: “Black youth are the most disproportionately enrolled racial subgroup in LA County schools that serve students in juvenile halls and probation camps, but research on racial disparities along every juncture in the school-to-prison pipeline reveals underlying patterns of systemic racism. For example, Black students have been documented as being less likely to misbehave at school when compared to White students, but almost two times as likely to receive school-based discipline.
Also, Black female youth are the most overrepresented racial and gender.
“When I was an intern for CDF Freedom School… that was where, through the curriculum and relationships with students, I learned about their lives, what their passionate about, what they care about,” Fang told the Sentinel.
‘They may not get that [kind of attention] with a teacher who has 60 students… Sometimes a student can become invisible. Especially if the student is not participating, or if they are notdisruptive they can get overlooked. A lot of times schools are really under resourced.”
Students don’t always get opportunities for counseling, Fang said. Educators have to make sure kids are caught up in class but not necessarily to make sure they are mentally well.
“We [at CDF-CA] are vigilant about protecting students, making sure that students can stay in their schools,” Fang said.
“We wanted this study to bring people together to talk about this situation and come up with solutions in making students a priority. This is a conversation that should involve everyone.”
Click here to access the report.