Statement By Youth of Color on School Safety and Gun Violence in America

12 Feb in
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A coalition of organizations led by youth of color, including the Youth Justice Coalition and other members of the Dignity in Schools Campaign, have launched "You Can't Build Peace With a Piece" a national youth-led campaign to call for positive approaches in response to gun violence and address the impact of school safety policies on youth of color in the aftermath of the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.

The coalition has created a Facebook Group to spread the word, share content, and resources, to collaborate on a series of events throughout February, March, and April.

On Wednesday, February 13th the Coalition is holding a series of events in Los Angeles, CA and is releasing the following statement:

Statement By Youth of Color on School Safety and Gun Violence in America

"We can imagine the pain and suffering that the youth and families in Newtown, Connecticut are experiencing. As youth growing up on some of America’s deadliest streets, we are all too familiar with gun violence and its impacts. Too many of us have been shot and shot at. We have buried our friends and our family members. Nearly all of us have been to more funerals than graduations. No one wants the violence to stop more than we do.

But, we have also seen how attempts to build public safety with security systems, armed police and prisons have failed. We want college prep, not prison prep.

President Nixon declared the War on Drugs and enacted the first use of zero tolerance laws in communities. President Reagan expanded the War on Drugs and his Secretary of Education, William Bennett, enacted zero tolerance in schools. School shootings were used to expand these policies at the local, state and federal level, most famously by President Clinton following the Columbine shootings. For forty years, federal, state and local dollars have gone toward the massive build-up of juvenile halls, jails and prisons while simultaneously severe cuts have been made to our school and higher education budgets. Locally, these policies have resulted in the takeover of school security by police departments and school resource officers.

As a result, in communities of color throughout the nation, students now experience a vicious school-to-jail track. Despite the fact that school shootings have overwhelmingly happened in white schools, youth of color have paid the price. We have been handcuffed and humiliated in front of other students and staff for “offenses” as small as being late to school; detained in police interrogation rooms at our school; expelled from school for carrying nail clippers, markers or baseball caps; and arrested – even in elementary schools – for fights that used to be solved in the principal’s office. With our backpacks searched and our lockers and cars tossed, at the end of a billy club or the butt of a gun, knees down-hands up, or face down on cold concrete or burning asphalt – we have experienced the true face of “public safety.” These policies haven’t protected us, helped us to graduate or taught us anything about preventing violence. They have taught us to fear a badge, to hate school and to give up on our education. We understand too well that guns in anyone’s hands are not the solution. You can’t build peace with a piece."

Click here to download and continue reading the full statement.

Visit the group's Facebook page and "like it" to learn more, join the discussion and receive updates - https://www.facebook.com/youcantbuildpeacewithapiece

You can sign-on to the statement as an Endorser or as a Supporter/Ally here.