Officials with the recently formed Office of Youth Advocacy made a presentation to the San Diego Unified School District Board of Education Tuesday night, outlining its plans for the upcoming school year.
The office was created by trustees this spring and serves as the overall umbrella for a number of district groups and committees that work collectively to help black, Latino and LGBTQ students and those from low-income families.
The office covers a range of areas that affect traditionally underrepresented student groups including cultural proficiency, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer training and support, ethnic studies, restorative practices, substance use prevention and diverting students from the juvenile justice system.
Superintendent Cindy Marten said while the district has worked to tackle these issues for decades, this new top-to-bottom approach is revolutionary for the district.
“In order to be a district that can promise equity, we need to bring together several different efforts to deliver on the hope and promise of public education,” Marten said.
The office’s programs will be introduced during the 2015-16 school year.
According to the district, school officials started to lay the groundwork to create the advocacy office in 2010.
Many of the approaches identified by the office to help all district students succeed in school fall under a restorative justice approach.
SDUSD board members voted last year to work at getting to the root of behavioral and other problems, focusing on building relationships and community, rather than suspending or expelling students.
After establishing a restorative justice approach, the district significantly reduced the number of students who have been expelled.
In the 2013-2014 school year, 138 SDUSD students were expelled. This past school year, that number dropped to 66.
The district also reported the number of drug-related calls to campus police has dropped 40 percent in the 2014-15 school year.
In addition to restorative justice practices, the Office of Youth Advocacy plans to work with the Ethnic Studies Advisory Committee to develop an ethnic studies course that will fulfill the A-G requirement in history.
In the meantime, the school district will partner with San Diego community colleges to offer college-level ethnic studies courses to high school students.
Not all the board members were happy with the presentation. Trustee Kevin Beiser wasn’t satisfied due to what he said was a lack of specific dates and deadlines for achieving goals.
Beiser said he felt more transparency was needed to hold the district and the advocacy office accountable to meeting the goals they’ve set out to achieve.
“My expectations with this presentation were not met,” Beiser said.
Beiser was also unhappy with what he said was less time dedicated to discussing issues that affect LGBTQ students and that a full-time staff member dedicated to working on LGBTQ issues has yet to be hired at the Office of Advocacy.
—City News Service
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