CNS – Many South Los Angeles high school students are scared of violence on campus, dissatisfied with college preparatory classes and show signs of clinical depression, according to report based on a survey of more than 6,000 young people, released April 25.
“A lot of students are depressed because of the conditions in their school,” Anna Exiga, a junior at Jordan High School who was one of the organizers of the survey, told the Los Angeles Times. “They see that their school is failing them, their teachers are failing them, there’s racial tension and gang violence, and also many feel that their schools are not schools—their schools look more like prisons.”
The survey included students from Jordan, Crenshaw, Dorsey, Fremont, Locke, Manual Arts and Washington Preparatory. Students from Gardena High also participated, although the survey was done outside school. The report by the youth group South Central Youth Empowered Thru Action, with help from the Loyola Marymount psychology department, suggests the conditions of schools contribute to a loss of hope and drive.
Some student organizers said they don’t like to use the word “dropout” to describe their peers who leave school. They prefer “pushout,” because they believe the school system is pushing students to fail.
“We’re ignored—our schools are ignored,” Susie Gonzalez, another Jordan 11th-grader who helped organize the survey, told The Times. “They give us the short end of the stick… They expect us not to amount to anything.”
Among the findings:
SCYEA, which advocates educational equality, fought for six years to push Los Angeles Unified School District to require such a curriculum for all students. The curriculum spells out the types of college prep classes and number of years they must be taken to qualify for UC and Cal State schools. About two-thirds of the students, nearly all of whom are Black or Latino, said they wanted their schools to offer more ethnic studies classes.
The schools surveyed are among the lowest performing in the LAUSD and are in an area where dissatisfaction with the traditional public school system is driving many students into charter schools.
The survey’s findings contrast with a February school district report in which 90 percent of students questioned at selected schools districtwide said they were being pushed to do their best and 80 percent said their classes “give me useful preparation for what I plan to do in life.” The same report was critical of the district’s efforts to get all students into a college-prep curriculum by 2012.
“With the current school climate and instructional quality,” it said, “a significant proportion of the students who enter the ninth grade in 2012 will not only fail to meet college eligibility, but will also fail to graduate from high school.’’
Monica Garcia, president of the Board of Education welcomed the survey, saying she believed the district was responding to students’ concerns.
“This is energizing, this is encouraging,” she said. “We need the consumers of our services to be advocates of change.”
Jordan High Principal Stephen Strachan said the survey was skewed to provoke negative responses. He said Jordan had made progress in readying students for college and created a “safe haven” from a violent neighborhood. Strachan seconded the findings about depression.
“This morning at 10 o’clock at Simpson’s Mortuary, a 16-year-old was buried. That’s one of my students who was shot in the community,” he said.
Cheryl Grills, a professor of clinical psychology at Loyola Marymount, said that she was struck by how many students answered a question about skipping school. More than half hinted at depression, saying they were tired, had trouble sleeping, felt helpless or hopeless, were bored or felt lazy, among otherresponses, The Times reported. Those responses, she said, fit the symptoms of clinical depression described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the standard for psychologists. In a follow-up survey among 52 students, 67 percent reported that they “felt sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more,” and had “stopped doing some of their usual activities.” Grills said those kinds of responses indicated “clinical levels of depression.”