New Year…New WCA!
Many of our supporters and friends have asked for more ways to stay updated online and we are happy to respond. Our new eBulletins will be sent out to email subscribers monthly to share our progress in our focus areas and current projects in a way that can be easily accessed and shared with others.
Browse highlights via email or read more details on our Hub. Look out for multimedia articles with pictures, videos, links and more in the future. We will update the eBulletins as needed and connect editions to our main site. Along with our printed newsletter, reports, and social media platforms we will continue to find different ways to share our work with you.
If you haven’t already please subscribe to receive our eBulletin via email.
RTA Lobby Day on January 27, 2020!
We’re hitting the ground running for the new year as we prepare for a road trip to Albany for a Lobby Day for Raise the Age/Youth Justice and Solutions not Suspensions on January 27th. Our focus is to gather support for alternatives to the punitive education system that relies on suspensions and similar punishments for students of all ages and for more support for broader youth justice and necessary community-based services to ensure the success of Raise the Age legislation.
Lobby Days are effective in influencing decision-makers as we demonstrate the number of people affected by the issue and let concerned citizens and supporters speak up for themselves on the steps of the Capitol. There will be press conferences on the Million Dollar Staircase and will meetings with key decision-makers who are available to learn the facts, hear from affected residents directly, and discuss positive steps to move forward. If you are able to join us in Albany, please reach out to us to learn more about the plans for the day and invite others you think would be interested.
New York State must shift away from ineffective, unnecessarily punitive suspensions and move toward more restorative and rehabilitative alternatives that keep kids in school. Children have suffered the impact on their academic success and school systems have not seen many benefits from the current high rate of suspensions. Our children in schools and in the justice system need more age-appropriate support and need to be empowered to learn from their mistakes without suffering unnecessary burdens that do not benefit the community at large.
Solutions Not Suspensions
Black and Latino/a children and adolescents are suspended more and for longer periods of time than their white peers, in nearly every school district. Many suspensions are ineffective and unnecessarily punitive, causing children and youth to be labelled delinquent and criminal, and fall behind in school. We are advocating to modify school discipline, reducing New York State’s overreliance on suspensions by:
Eliminating suspensions for students in Pre-K through 3rd grade
Removing current state law definitions that classify students as “violent”, “delinquent” and “disruptive,” because these definitions are tied to mandatory suspensions, take away local control, and are racist in their impacts
Eliminating suspensions for subjective, non-dangerous reasons that perpetuate racial inequities in school discipline, including insubordination, willful defiance and minor offenses such as tardiness and dress code violations.
Requiring progressive, age-appropriate and proportional discipline as part of new codes of conduct that prioritizes restorative practices and other positive interventions.
Capping the maximum length of suspensions at 20 days (still an entire month of school)
Ensuring students have access to their regular school work, and tests and can receive academic credit, while suspended.
Raise the Age/Youth Justice
Students who are suspended from school are at greater risk of dropping out and those who drop out of school are more likely to have justice system involvement, according to the Council of State Governments Justice Center. We are advocating to broaden youth justice by changing laws to reflect the following:
Stop the criminalization of childhood by ending prosecution of children under 12
End the use of solitary confinement in facilities housing youth
Exclusively require the Office of Children and Families to administer facilities housing youth
Strengthen and expand protections for court-involved youth up to age 25
Stand with us in Albany on January 27th!
We welcome all who want to journey with us and lend their voices.
If you can’t make it, call state leaders and your legislators.
Find your local legislator through this link.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo – 518-474-8390
Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins – 518-455-2585
Speaker Carl E. Heastie – 518-455-3791
WCA Empowers Justice-Involved Youth through Advocacy Training
We are very proud of the progress we made over a series of three training workshops with youth at Woodfield Cottage thanks to a grant from Westchester Community Foundation. These sessions were held with youth incarcerated in juvenile detention (both pretrial detention and sentenced detention) in hopes of building their knowledge of their rights in and out of the justice system, strengthening their voices to speak up at the most effective times as they navigate their future, and giving them a forum to express their views with little judgment or barriers while at Woodfield. We saw tremendous growth among the participants, who emerged as active advocates by the end of the three sessions. Each session involved 20-25 young people who ranged in age from 14-18 and had been incarcerated for time periods ranging from several days to months.
The sessions were exclusively activity-driven and featured supplemental handouts with essential information, to promote youth engagement and retention. For our first session, we focused on civil rights, school rights, and reflection on their experiences with advocacy in the past. The youth really enjoyed doing an activity where they were quizzed on the types of rights they have in schools, sharing with us through surveys that it was relevant, helpful, and thought-provoking. During our second session, we progressed to court rights—as every youth housed at Woodfield must go to court—and our County Budget Game. Many participants found our Budget Game to be very interesting as they got a better understanding of the discussions and decisions made around the county budget and enjoyed the power of making decisions they had never had the chance to in the past.
For our third session, we built on the rapport and relationships built with some young people to allow them to test out skills gained through role-playing and even artistic exercises. After learning what their rights were and understanding how the system of decision making plays out, they were now able to demonstrate their understanding of the roles involved in hypothetical exercises. Even more, was revealed when participants got a chance to depict their understanding of advocacy through drawings of what advocacy meant to them. As you can see in the pictures above, we received a wide range of responses, allowing a glimpse into the challenges young people involved in the justice system face and the potential of each of them to positively impact the world around them.
See more about our work with Raise the Age and youth justice by clicking here or following #WCAyouthjustice.
Questions? Email email@example.com
WCA Encourages Teens in New Rochelle through Project 2020
The new law allows for early pre-registration for teenagers over 16 is one of five voting reforms put in place by New York state legislature. Other new laws allow for online voter registration, registration portability when one moves, voter-friendly ballots and more. This project that builds on WCA’s work with Vote for Kids and experience in advocacy training has the potential to catalyze greater awareness and involvement in our county. Pilot sessions for Project 2020 have been conducted at 2 sites and we continue to develop targeted online toolkits that help young people and those who work with them to better understand their rights, opportunities to get involved and pre-register them to vote.
We launched Project 2020 at Invest Fest 2019 [LINK] by hosting a table at the outdoor convention of hundreds of Westchester kids and lead students of middle school and high school ages through our version of the County Budget game. The game was adapted to different age levels by including varying levels of detail about the decision making process and the programs in each category, but all involved enjoyed testing out roles where they made theoretical decisions that could affect thousands. Some participants really enjoyed the activity and shone through as potential advocates for young people as they took particular interest and asked for opportunities to get greater training.
Recently, we hosted Project 2020 trainings at the Boys & Girls Club of New Rochelle (BGCNR), which showed the potential of Project 2020 to energize young people. In our first session in Fall 2019, we discussed and did activities about civic engagement, community decision making, and being involved in your community. This month, we returned to BGCNR for a unique opportunity where young people from both BGCNR sites participated in a Community Decision Making Workshop. About 25 students heard from 4 community leaders and a businessman from New Rochelle about their experiences and roles, and then all were able to talk together in small groups. The panel of community leaders included New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson, County Legislator Terry Clements, Board of Education Member Will Iannuzzi, Vincent Fields from State Senator Shelley Mayer’s Office, and Michael Getlan, owner of FunFuzion, which employs and entertains many people in the district.
Many young people enjoyed being able to talk to leaders directly to ask questions, throw out ideas and test out their new advocacy skills. As a group, there were concerns about crime, mental health, gentrification, job opportunities, career training, and community events. The event concluded with a recap of the topics in both sessions and young people and decision-makers alike sharing what they learned. Ending on a positive and encouraging note, the decision-makers proudly shared that they learned just as much from the youth as the youth learned from them.
We continue to seek funding as we develop a full curriculum for Project 2020 and we have been approached by other groups to participate in our new initiative. Project 2020 has the potential to encourage lifelong civic engagement and empower teenagers in Westchester to realize how much power for change they really have.