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Oakland, CA—Yesterday, public officials, policymakers, community organizations, youth advocates, and the public gathered at Oakland City Hall for the Children’s Defense Fund-California’s School and Community Safety Forum, a pioneering event that highlighted the innovative work being done across the East Bay Area to make classrooms and streets safer for youth. The forum, sponsored by Oakland City Councilmember Larry Reid, provided a unique opportunity for those concerned with shielding youth from violence to share success stories and challenges, as well as brainstorm new solutions to combat this persistent problem.
“The advocates and youth that participated in our forum are among the best the Bay Area has to offer,” said Jamila Iris Edwards, Northern California Director of Children’s Defense Fund-California. “They are out there on the front lines every day working to make sure all of our children are safe, regardless of what zip code they live in. We truly appreciate their insights.”
“This forum provided valuable information and inspiration on many solutions to the crisis of violence in our schools and communities,” said David Muhammad, former Chief Probation Officer of Alameda County, who facilitated the forum. “We hope this was a discussion that will continue, and, most importantly, spark action.”
The School and Community Safety Forum comes in the wake of the massacre that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. This year, Children’s Defense Fund-California is sponsoring Assembly Bill 549 (Jones-Sawyer) and supporting Assembly Bill 420 (Dickinson), both of which will help to foster an environment of trust and collaboration in schools by encouraging school districts to explore more comprehensive approaches to school safety, and discouraging suspension and expulsion as a method of correction. The nonprofit organization also calls upon East Bay communities to continue to build on what works and to replicate and expand effective programs to ensure that all children are kept out of harm’s way.
The forum took place from 1:00pm to 4:30pm in the City Council Chambers of Oakland’s City Hall and was divided into two panels, each followed by public comment. The first panel was composed of a broad cross-section of advocates who discussed the role policy and systemic change plays in reducing instances of school and community violence; the second panel featured youth from Richmond and Oakland who spoke candidly about their own experiences with violence and offered solutions to reducing crime.
“Youth are a very important part of this discussion,” said panelist Philip Johnson, President of the Youth and College Division of the NAACP. “After all, we are the ones most likely to be affected by school violence. It only stands to reason that we should be at the table.”
Several public officials representing the region were present at the event, including Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan, Oakland City Councilmembers Desley Brooks and Dan Kalb, Port of Oakland Commissioner Bryan Parker, Richmond City Councilmember Jael Myrick, Alameda County Superintendent of Schools Sheila Jordan, as well as representatives from the offices of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, Oakland City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, State Senator Loni Hancock, and State Assemblymembers Nancy Skinner, Rob Bonta, and Bill Quirk.
“The Bay Area is on the cutting edge of creating new models of collaborating, and meetings like this help to keep us there,” said Oakland Mayor Jean Quan.
Other participants included the PICO LifeLines to Healing Campaign, Omega Boys Club/Street Soldiers, Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Richmond Office of Neighborhood Safety, Black Organizing Project, Oakland Youth Commission, RYSE Youth Center, and Youth Alive.
Photos from the event are available at: http://www.cdfca.org/about-us/cdfca-events/school-and-community-safety.html
Children’s Defense Fund-California is the California office of the Children’s Defense Fund, a non-profit child advocacy organization that has worked relentlessly for 40 years to ensure a level playing field for all children. The Children’s Defense Fund champions policies and programs that lift children out of poverty, protect them from abuse and neglect, and ensure their access to health care, a quality education, and a moral and spiritual foundation.