As Des Moines Public Schools shifts disciplinary policy, Axios contrasts the new discipline rules to the “Let’s Talk” conflict resolution strategy that A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy (AMOS) designed and successfully implemented in Des Moines Middle Schools 8 years ago.
The rules [assigning students involved in fights to virtual learning] are likely to take more students out of classrooms and increase disciplinary disparities among students of color, says Cheryl Hayes, a juvenile justice reform advocate with A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy (AMOS), a network of metro churches and community groups that runs a mediation program in the district….
Community volunteers [from AMOS] launched the Let's Talk program in three district middle schools eight years ago with one key objective: fix a system that disproportionately disciplines students of color, Hayes, who's also a coordinator for the program, tells Axios.
The district has since expanded the program to nearly all of its 12 middle schools...
Let's Talk is run by AMOS, a network of dozens of metro churches, neighborhood groups and community organizations.
The program helps students resolve conflicts peacefully, and ultimately aims to disrupt the "school-to-prison pipeline" — the link between punishments and the criminal justice system.
Inspiration for the restorative justice program came from "The New Jim Crow," a book about the U.S. legal system and how it has led to the mass incarceration of Black men, Hayes says.
What they do: Volunteer mediators, such as retired judges, go into schools to help resolve student conflicts or other disciplinary issues through discussion.
Oftentimes, mediators help students work through home-life traumas that are a factor in problems surfacing at school, Hayes says.
Program facilitators also assist with cultural awareness training among district educators to help improve teaching and disciplinary practices.
What they're saying: Hayes says organizers believe Let's Talk is a factor in why disciplinary referrals — generally those involving assaults or weapons — were down in grades 6-8 during the first four months of this school year [as reported by Axios, February 2022].
[Photo credit: Let's Talk via Axios]
Valley Interfaith Project (VIP) and St. Francis Xavier Catholic leaders leveraged more than $5 million to improve neighborhood safety in the Maryvale region of Phoenix following a year-long organizing effort.
In Spring 2021, leaders from St. Francis Xavier began a house meeting campaign to develop a team of leaders to learn about issues affecting Maryvale families. Leaders heard stories about unlit neighborhoods, gang activity, and dangerous streets. They moved to meet with City of Phoenix council members from districts 4 & 5 to secure commitments from them to address these issues.
By the summer of 2021, VIP and St. Francis Xavier leaders secured more than 30 new street lamps in the same sites VIP leaders had identified as needing lighting and where crime was an issue.
In early 2022, the Phoenix City Council voted to approve more than $5 million dollars to create a safety corridor along 27th Avenue -- installing new lighting and traffic cameras, implementing street safety features and assigning added officers to address ongoing vandalism and gang activity. At the time of the vote, Phoenix City Councilwoman Laura Pastor recognized VIP for its work in bringing this issue to the City's attention and making this project a possibility.
[In photo, St. Francis Xavier and VIP leader Catalina Aldaco announces the win at VIP's leaders assembly.]
After engaging over 350 Watsonville residents in conversation about public safety and the quality of interactions with police, COPA leaders presented their findings to the Watsonville City Council. Their findings, rooted in the experiences of hundreds of people from diverse walks of life and ages, were quickly integrated into an official report by an ad hoc committee on Policing and Social Equity.
COPA pointed out that policing and safety are not necessarily equivalent terms, and that systemic investments in mental health, youth and family programming, and budget alignments in city and police spending would go a long way towards making Watsonville safer -- particularly for youth of color.
Prior to the pandemic, over 100 COPA-IAF leaders had convened with the Watsonville Police Department Chief and Santa Cruz County Supervisor to address identified concerns about engagements between police and community. Soon after, the City responded with an invitation to participate in an ad-hoc committee on Policing and Social Equity. But COPA leaders first wanted to include more residents in the discussion, and with the support of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), COPA engaged hundreds more residents in substantive conversations about direct experiences with Watsonville police and what restorative justice can look like.
COPA's reported findings have so far been met with a positive reception by Watsonville elected officials. Leaders plan to persist in their efforts as the City identifies a new Chief for the Watsonville Police Department.
[Photo Credits: (top) Tarmo Hannula, Good Times; (middle) courtesy of COPA]
Watsonville Committee Calls for more Police Accountability, Santa Cruz Local
City of Watsonville Report, Watsonville Ad Hoc Committee on Policing and Social Equity
Report on Police Reforms Filed by Watsonville City Council, Santa Cruz Sentinel [pdf]
Wrapping Up My Term as Mayor, The Pajaronian [12/2020]
A Deep Look into the Watsonville Police Department, The Pajaronian [08/2020]
Watsonville Police Oversight Committee in the Works, The Pajaronian [07/2020]
Watsonville, Santa Cruz to Start Police Reform Committees, Santa Cruz Local [07/2020]
New Committees Address police Reform in Watsonville, Santa Cruz County, Santa Cruz Local [02/2021]
The violent incursion at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, January 6 disrespected, demeaned, and threatened the right of every citizen who peaceably engages in the democratic process in our country.
Deliberation, debate, argument, compromise, deal-making; these are the means to advance interests in a democracy. The leaders and organizations of the West/Southwest IAF teach and practice these political skills every day; vigorously engaging on the issues that impact our families and traveling regularly to state Capitols, City Halls, and decision-making chambers to advance these issues. That the buildings and halls of power belong to them is made self-evident in their consistent and persistent presence throughout years of effort. Their work is carried out through hundreds of conversations full of respectful dissent, concession, and sometimes victory; in other words, democratically.
What happened yesterday at the U.S. Capitol not only endangered the officials, staff members and public safety officers who were present, but endangered our democratic institutions by introducing violence to what has, until now, been a tradition of a peaceful transfer of power in our national leadership. To arrive at consent at the point of a gun is the weakest form of power, and our nation was weakened on January 6 by the use of violence in place of political debate.
As a network of religious, labor, education and community leaders from all walks of life and all political persuasions, we condemn the acts of insurrection and violence in Washington, D.C., and recall the words of Abraham Lincoln in his second inaugural address at the conclusion of the Civil War: "With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan -- to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations."
Cortes: To Arrive at Consent at Point of a Gun is Weakest Form of Power, Rio Grande Guardian [pdf]
In Wake of Capitol Attack, Leaders Urge Rejection of Division That Lead to Violence, Catholic Sentinel [pdf]
Listen to Lincoln: 'With Malice Towards None; With Charity For All', Arizona Republic [pdf]
Statement, West/Southwest IAF
Together Baton Rouge Calls for Resignation of Officer with History of Excessive Force from Civil Service Board
Together Baton Rouge is calling for the immediate resignation of Cpl. Robert Moruzzi as Chairman of the Municipal Police and Fire Civil Service Board....[saying] his history of police brutality is deeply troubling considering our nation's current climate....
"We are calling for local entities with an appointed position to develop standards for their appointment, considering individuals with an exemplary civil and professional record, free of conflict of interest, and who would serve in the best interest of the community," Together Baton Rouge said....
Pastor Clee Lowe told WBRZ with the current climate around the nation, Moruzzi's past actions are unacceptable.
[Photo credit: WBRZ footage]
More than 1,300 leaders from TMO assembled at Assumption Catholic Church to clarify the impact of anti-immigrant Senate Bill 4. Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez responded to questions and concerns raised by leaders, as did Houston Police Department Assistant Chief Lori Bender and Carolina Ortuzar-Diaz, an immigration attorney from Manny Ramirez Law Firm.Read more
At Governor Bel Edward's request, Together Baton Rouge will lead a discussion on police tactics and race relations, a conversation the Times-Picayune editorial board says "is important to have." Towards that end, the governor arranged a meeting between the organization and the Department of Justice Community Relations Service, which will convene public meetings to get input on what needs to change.Read more
A piece by the Christian Science Monitor digs into the question and includes a quote by Rev. Lee Wesley: "Policemen are going to have to get out of their cars, walk the street, and have a conversation with the black guy on the corner â€“ the black guy who has his pants hanging down â€“ and get to know him as an individual, not as a stereotype. Until we get those types of relationships going, we're never going to get our community moving forward."
TBR will soon hold meetings about community policing to address "how we employ people in our law enforcement agencies, how we vet them" and more. Together Baton Rouge also plans to address this issue with all mayoral candidates running this fall.Read more
On the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), Together Baton Rouge's community gathering was described as giving "a sense of hope and openness" as leaders listened to each other (regardless of race and age) in a mutually professed desire to move the city forward.Read more