Black Youth Leadership Project advocates for black students


Two of Sacramento’s largest school districts recorded one of the highest black student suspension rates in 2019, and advocates are pushing for changes to what they describe as extreme disciplinary action and unfair.

The Elk Grove Unified School District suspended more black students than any other district in California in 2019, and the Sacramento City Unified School District was ranked fourth in the state based on data from the “Suspend our future” survey published by the Black Minds Matter Coalition.

Lorreen Pryor, a parent and alumnus of the Elk Grove School System, is now President and CEO of the Black Youth Leadership Project (BYLP). She pleads for a solution to what students, parents and advocates see as an unacceptable problem.

“I get complaints from families in the district and then I come in to make sure what they are saying went well and that my students are not disproportionate,” said Pryor. “Elk Grove (is) number one for the disproportionate discipline of black students. “

Pryor says she has three filing cabinets filled with complaints from students and families and the majority are from Elk Grove.

Disciplinary actions taken against students include suspension, expulsion, loss of recess, limits on extracurricular activities – such as partial suspensions of athletics games and restrictions on extracurricular programs – as well as the use of mechanical restraints and physical and virtual isolation.

“Regarding our suspensions, I think it’s important to note that we’ve done a lot of work to change what the research has shown, that we have the highest number of African American students who are suspended.” , said EGUSD spokesperson Xanthi Soriano

Soriano says they have changed key policies involving discipline, such as assessing the role of law enforcement, adjusting the district’s “zero tolerance” policy and dress code policy.

Pryor says she has received 76 complaints since 2018, most after the start of the virtual learning period, six complaints since the start of this school year and three in the past two weeks. Pryor said she has previously defended several families of black students who have been sanctioned with suspensions for minor infractions or allegations made against them this school year.

One happened on the campus of Monterey Trails High School. According to Pryor, three non-black students physically attacked a black student and continued to attack her, even after the school administration separated the girls. The black student was the only student threatened with expulsion for the altercation.

Elk Grove officials confirmed the incident, but said they could not discuss the information uncovered after the investigation, but protocols were followed.

“In our disciplinary policies, we contact parents, we work with students. We look at our remedial measures, we look at the investigative part, and then decisions are made based on the information. Sometimes we get new information and then we continue to look at due process, ”Soriano said.

The school administration ultimately determined that she did not have enough evidence to proceed with an expulsion status and the student was suspended for five days on her case, while the other three students did. subject to a two-day suspension from campus, according to Pryor.

The students involved declined to speak publicly for fear of reprisal, Pryor told the Sacramento Bee.

She said she believed the punishment was unfair and was working hard to counter the narrative that the black student was the aggressor of the altercation. She says the actual story contradicts what was written on the discipline form, which can follow a student throughout their college career, all the way to college.

“I’m really disappointed,” said Pryor. “I have the impression that the investigation was not carried out thoroughly. It was a rush for judgment. They automatically saw the young black woman as the aggressor without even considering the whole situation.

Pryor learned of another incident at Sheldon High School during the annual Powder Flag football game. He was told that a black student and participant was accused of intentionally attempting to hit his opponent.

She faces a day of suspension at home, a day of suspension on campus, a placement on the “no activities” list for a week and is threatened with withdrawal from her leadership class.

Pryor managed to lift the one-day home suspension for the student. Pryor, and the student is still waiting to determine the other results.

“We want the message to be clear that we are a place where our students can land, come build and be supported through advocacy,” Pryor said of BYLP’s mission.

“Capital of suspensions” for California

The suspension rate for all students in California is 3.5%, according to data found in the “Suspend our future” investigation.

However, for black male college students, the statewide rate is 11.8%. Native male students have a suspension rate of 10.1%.

Black female students are suspended at a 6.1% rate, and black female students who identify as non-binary are suspended at higher rates (20.8%) than other non-binary students (2.5%).

The Black Minds Matter Coalition, an alliance of faculty and education officials from San Diego State University, UCLA, Southwest Community College, Claremont Graduate School, and the San Diego Office of Education found that in 2019, the Sacramento City Unified School District and the Elk Grove Unified School District were two of the top five suspension districts for black students.

“Sacramento happens to be what we call the ‘suspension capital’ because it has four of the top 20 suspension districts in the state of California,” said J. Luke Wood, professor at State University. from San Diego who helped lead the research for the survey. “Right now he’s number one and number three based on the last report we made. We know that black boys, black students overall, are much more likely to be exposed to exclusionary discipline. “

The Los Angeles Unified School District ranked fifth for black suspensions and Oakland, which has more black students than Elk Grove, ranked second for black students suspended.

Counties with the lowest black populations, such as Modoc, Amador, Glenn, Madera and Plumas, had the highest suspension rates.

In 2019, eight Sacramento County schools were on the Top 50 Suspensions for Black Youth list: Nova Opportunity (Twin Rivers USD), James Rutter Middle School (EGUSD), TR Smedberg Middle School (EGUSD), Encina Preparatory High School (SJUSD), Samuel Jackman Middle School (EGUSD), Rio Linda Preparatory Academy (Twin Rivers USD) and Mills Middle School (Folsom-Cordova USD).

Three other Sacramento schools achieved the top 20 suspension rates for traditional and non-traditional schools. Fortune High School ranked fourth, Encina Preparatory High School seventh, and Sheldon High School in Elk Grove ranked 18th.

“We actually focused on highlighting districts and schools that have extremely high suspension rates,” Wood said. “There should be a mandatory process like there would be for any other type of school failure, where the state steps in and basically replaces and oversees that process. We need better teacher training in our schools of education.

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Marcus D. Smith covers black communities for The Sacramento Bee. Marcus is an alumnus of Texas Southern University in Houston. Marcus grew up in Sacramento and is delighted to be back home following his passion for journalism.

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