Black Swan Academy and Police Free Schools DC Coalition Urge DC Council to Pass School Safety Enhancement Act of 2023
WASHINGTON, DC – Local grassroots organization Black Swan Academy and the DC Police Free Schools Coalition are calling for the passage of the School Safety Enhancement Act of 2023 in response to the bill’s introduction by Councilmember Zachary Parker. Along with Black Swan Academy and Advancement Project, 40 plus organizations, including parents, educators and school leaders have circulated this letter of support to the DC Council.
“This bill challenges the ways adults think about how to protect youth, policing us is not the answer- prevention, investing in our schools and caring for us is,” said Samaria, a high school senior at DC Public Schools and leader with Black Swan Academy.
While some council members are reverting back to school police as the answer to on-going school safety concerns, Parker’s legislation relies on the power of community and evidence-based holistic approaches to get at the root causes of violence our schools are experiencing. The School Safety Enhancement Act calls for the hiring of full-time School Safety Directors, tasked with building a team of supporters and implementing a non-carceral safety plan unique to their individual school campuses. The intent is that these new employees, with guidance from OSSE and a community-led process, will both add additional capacity to schools that are stretched thin under this administration, and be better positioned to build deep authentic relationships with students and the broader school community.
“Hiring full time School Safety Directors at schools and building safety teams instead of police is important to me because, sometimes police officers make me feel anxious, it’s like you never know what can happen,” said Tyela, a high school student at DC Public Schools.
“We want to be clear, this is not a both/and solution. If we truly want to prevent harm and invest in school safety, we must be innovative and shift away from harmful approaches- such as policing our young people,” said Samantha Davis, founder and executive director of Black Swan Academy. “Students deserve to feel nurtured and supported in schools. They deserve to form authentic relationships with caring adults. They deserve prevention, mental health support, academic resources, having their immediate needs met, and being physically and emotionally safe. That is what this Act provides. The well documented research that grounded city council in their decision to phase out police, has not changed. Police in schools disproportionately bully, abuse, and traumatize Black and Latinx young people, as well as LGBTQ students and students with disabilities.This reality is especially alarming when you consider the traumas of the last few years, including death, disability, isolation, and financial hardships and its impact on young people. and police will never be the answer to creating that safe environment. DC students know what they need to feel safe–they need to see a commitment from the Council to not only stay the course with the SRO phase out but also radically invest in resources that will bring about true safety.”
“This bill takes measurable steps toward keeping police out of schools and ensuring that young people have the support they need,” said Tyler Whittenberg, deputy director for the Opportunity to Learn Program at Advancement Project. “With the creation of a School Safety Committee including student and parent-led advocacy organizations, young people in DC can expect to see evidence-based and trauma-based approaches to school safety that takes their demands into account. This will go a long way toward creating safe schools that nurture young people and honor their full dignity.”
Black Swan Academy will be hosting a School Safety Rally on Friday, April 7 at 3:30 pm – 5:30 pm at Freedom Plaza to call for this bill’s passage. Hear from youth, parents and educators on the importance of this bill and how it creates an opportunity for the city to invest in true safety.
Reporters can RSVP for the rally by contacting Mekdes Sisay [email protected]
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Founded in 2013, the Black Swan Academy (BSA) is a non-profit organization in the District of Columbia that concentrates its efforts on empowering Black youth through Civic Leadership and Engagement.
BSA envisions a world where Black youth powered by their lived experiences are equipped with the tools and opportunities to be active decision makers and leaders that drive social change for the liberation of all people. We are committed to creating a pipeline of Black youth leaders that are committed to transforming themself and their communities.
Advancement Project is a next-generation, multi-racial civil rights organization. Rooted in the great human rights struggles for equality and justice, we exist to fulfill America’s promise of a caring, inclusive and just democracy. We use innovative tools and strategies to strengthen social movements and achieve high impact policy change. Visit www.advancementproject.org to learn more.