Forum on Crenshaw High transformation features youth

Students demand voice in school changes

Cynthia E. Griffin | 5/30/2013, 6 a.m.
More than 50 students, parents, teachers and community members turned out for a forum on the future of Crenshaw High, ...
Students and parents voice their concerns at a forum at Crenshaw High School.

More than 50 students, parents, teachers and community members turned out for a forum on the future of Crenshaw High, and the goal was to ensure that the concerns and voices of young people are heard and taken into consideration as the school undergoes transformation.

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board of Education voted in mid-June to transform the Crenshaw-area campus as part of an effort to improve the academic performance of students.

The controversial process has so far included dividing the school into three magnet programs; and forcing staff to reapply for their jobs.

In the process, some at the school say a special education department that had actually brought academic scores up has been decimated—eight of the nine teachers were not hired back, and a preponderance of older and African American instructors were not rehired.

Additionally, what some teachers called a promising program that had garnered kudos from the state school accreditation commission as well as a Ford Foundation grant—Extended Learning Cultural Model—may not be continued.

According to the district, this program is unique to Crenshaw and is not funded by LAUSD. It’s continuation will be determined by the principal and the new teaching staff.

George Bartleson, director of intensive support and intervention with the LAUSD, said that more than 50 percent of the teachers who opted to go through the rehire process were retained.

At the forum, the potential loss of the Extended Learning Cultural Model program was one subject students focused on.

They also spent considerable time discussing what they wanted from a transformed Crenshaw—resources, people who listen, as well as a discipline policy that did not seem to push them out of school.

According to the Community Rights Campaign, a coalition of organizations that work with the students, in a survey of 343 Crenshaw students, 45 percent had either been ticketed or arrested. The large majority of those cited got tickets in the “other” category. Representatives of the campaign say most of the students do not even know what “other” means.

One speaker, an African American male, talked about his on-compus arrest. He said bullying prompted him to bring a knife to school for protection. He was arrested for the offense, which he knew was wrong.

But what disturbed him most about the incident was that no one ever asked him why he brought the knife to school. He said no one ever talked to him about what was happening.

Another student, a young Latina, said she was suspended from school for “giving attitude” to a vice principal. However, she said her parents were not notified about the suspension nor were her teachers. So she continued to attend, because she did not want to miss class.

She, too, yearned for someone to talk with her about the situation.

According to the Community Rights Campaign, these two students are part of some startling statistics at Crenshaw as it relates to discipline:

  • 24 percent of students are suspended and expelled.
  • 23 percent of students experience a police interaction.
  • 20 percent of students experience a security guard intervention.
  • 18 percent of students talk to a teacher, administrator or dean.
  • 10 percent of students are given detention.
  • 4 percent of students experience intervention by student council.