Oct. 6 Press Conference and Community Speak Out

NC Coalition for Education was joined by YOI, NC HEAT, Education Justice Alliance, Dignity in Schools Campaign, NC Fair Share, El Pueblo, Inc., Concerned Citizens for African American Children, and Legal Aid-Advocates for Children Services for our press conference and speak out at the school board.

Check out our press release and photos below:


The North Carolina Coalition for Educational Justice is participating in Dignity In Schools Campaign’s 6th Annual National Week of Action Against #SchoolPushOut. During the week of action community groups and youth organizations from across the country mobilize to demand an end to the school-to-prison-pipeline and the punitive disciplinary measures that make it possible. This year’s week of action takes place October 3 – October 11.

Local organizers, students, and parents are planning a series of events during the Week of Action to draw attention to the reality of discriminatory disciplinary policies and actions in Wake County Public Schools System (WCPSS).

Data from the 2013-14 school year shows that Black students in WCPSS while only making up 25% of the student population make up 62% of all suspensions. While overall suspension rates have fallen in the past 5 years, racial disparities remain. Additionally, students with disabilities while only making up 13% of the student population, make up 33% of all students suspended. North Carolina as a whole ranks 8th in highest suspension rates in the country as the state spends $8,160 on education per student but $159,750 on incarceration per youth.

Not only are these trends alarming and indicative of a hostile school environment toward students of color and students with disabilities, it is reflective of a larger society that disregards Black lives and others who fall on the margins.

Our schools are more willing to spend money contracting police officers to place in schools grade k-12 than on counselors who offer students an opportunity to plan for the future, work through their problems, and seek support. Our schools are more ready to punish students for not being present in school than pay teachers enough to teach and fund classrooms that have enough textbooks and seats.

Tavon Bridges, youth organizer and recent graduate of Knightdale High School, says he is participating in the Week of Action to “help create a safe space for students to learn. Education is a right no one should have taken away!”

Over the past 3 years, the NCCEJ and other local allies have worked to address the racial disparities in suspensions, the heavy policing of students in their schools, and the need for restorative justice programs available to students.

Our efforts have mobilized and galvanized hundreds of students and parents directly impacted by the school-to-prison-pipeline. We have also had much resistance from key decision makers. There are major public figures, such as Wake County School Board Member Jim Martin, who deny the existence of the school-to-prison-pipeline despite the research available, experiences from young people, and recognition from the federal government. This denial is cause for concern. From school board members that decide on policy affecting students’ lives and well being to school resource officers who have unchallenged power over disciplinary actions, we can no longer deny that the school-to-prison-pipeline exists and all of us have a part in it.

All students deserve a quality education, but over policing and unfair school discipline practices are stripping Black, Latino and disabled students of their rights to a public education. We cannot let another student get pepper strayed, jailed and forgotten. We cannot go another school year with the highest number of long-term suspension in the entire state while those with the power to change conditions in schools remain idle.

National Week of Action Against #SchoolPushOut | Oct. 3-11

yoi STPP_2

Everyday Black, Latino and Native American students are targeted with pepper stray, search police dogs, restraints and unfair disciplinary action in our schools. The Week of Action is a national campaign event to address everyday injustices in our schools like police brutality and school push out. This will be the 6th anniversary for the campaign where all around the country community led demonstrations are held to fight systematic oppression from the classroom to the courtroom. Join us in the fight for education Justice!

OCTOBER 3-11 is Dignity in Schools Campaign’s National Week of Action Against #SchoolPushOut. Join the Youth Organizing Institute, NC HEAT, El Pueblo, Inc., Education Justice Alliance, and community groups across the nation who are calling for an end to the criminalization and school push out of youth of color, LGBTQ youth, and youth with disabilities. Learn more:http://www.dignityinschools.org/


OCT. 3–Community Forum | 9:30am-12:30pm | Enloe High School, Raleigh

Community lead discussions with Wake County Public Schools Administer to dismantle the school to prison pipeline (STPP).

OCT. 6–Press Conference and Speak Out | 4:30pm | Wake County Public Schools System Building, Cary

We will discuss the status of the STPP in wake from the prospective of students and parents impacted be push out and on campus police violence.

OCT. 10–Know Your Rights Training | 9:30am-2pm | El Pueblo Office, Raleigh

Education Justice Alliance will be hosting a know your rights training for students and parents.

OCT. 10–4th Annual March to End the School-to-Prison-Pipeline | 2:30pm-5pm | Start: Washington GT Elem., Raleigh End: Central Prison, Raleigh

Education not prison cultivation!

Questions? Get in contact with Tavon (tavonbridges7@gmail.com, (919) 239-0986) or Beatrice (beatrice.galdamez@gmail.com, (919) 323-0816). Or you can visit our website: empoweryouthnc.org

Grateful for our network of geniuses

In Durham we focused on the theme of space, place, and power. This is the first year we organized a Freedom School in Durham so it was important for us to think often and critically about our relationship to the world around us.

From learning about the historically Black neighborhood of Hayti to reproductive justice, we considered the ways we relate to the world at large: what is our power? what is our space?

We left Durham Freedom School with a renewed curiosity to claim and reclaim the spaces and places we love from the powers that be.

Thank you for joining us

Our Raleigh Freedom School focused on the history and legacy of education and youth justice issues in the U.S. dating back to slavery and the genocide of indigenous people.

Together we learned about how history intimately impacts our present and the systems of oppression established the norms we live by (prisons, jails, segregation…) hundreds of years ago.

And just like those who came before us, discovering the truth of our power gets us a little closer to youth liberation and freedom for all people everyday.


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Over the past 5 years, participants in our trainings have become trainers and facilitators in our programming. Some have been brought on as organizing interns and fellows and then part-time staff. YOI alumni who have been trained and staffed with us have gone on to organize with farm workers, low-wage workers, and even internationally with the parents of the missing 43 students in Ayotzinapa.

We see it important to ensure that our leadership is comprised of young people who have trained with us. This leadership changes and cycles every few years so we can continue to develop some of the best organizers, artists, social change makers ever.

This year we are supporting a huge transition for YOI. Our director Elena is taking a medical leave, here’s what she has to say about where we’ve been so far:

“This summer I will be taking a 3 month medical sabbatical to recover from reconstructive surgery.  I am grateful to my co-workers and friends at the Youth Organizing InstituteIgnite NC, and the Southern Vision Alliance for offering me paid medical leave, enabling me to take the time to heal and not have to worry about making ends meet during recovery.

Most people in the United States cannot access paid medical leave.  A 2009 study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research compared paid sick leave policies in the top 22 countries on the UN’s HDI ranking (Human Development Index).  The US is the only country that does not guarantee paid sick leave.

The Youth Organizing Institute is a scrappy organization dedicated to supporting young people in their journey to transform power our schools, neighborhoods, communities, and in the world into one based on the principles of cooperation, mutual aid, restorative justice, and respect.

I’ve dedicated the last five years of my life to its mission and to the young people who have emerged as the new leadership – both of the organization, and of many other struggles for social, racial, gender, and environmental justice.

This summer represents a new chapter for the Youth Organizing Institute.  At the end of my medical sabbatical, I will return, but with a different relationship to the organization.  I will be stepping back from leadership and doing what I can to support the impressive staff of YOI they stretch themselves to take on new roles and transition the leadership of the organization into one that is led by a staff whose average age is 23.

To my friends, family, comrades, and anyone who has been touched by the work of the Youth Organizing Institute these past five years, please consider making a contribution to the 2015 Summer Freedom School Fund.  Your support will both help offset the cost of my paid medical leave and of this summer’s Freedom Schools.”

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