Central CA School Replaces Zero-Tolerance With Restorative Justice…VA Group Aids Homeless Female Vets…Baca & Yor Health…and MoreOctober 1st, 2013 by Taylor Walker
LE GRAND HIGH SCHOOL’S “RESTORATIVE JUSTICE LEAGUE” ANNIHILATES ZERO-TOLERANCE PRACTICES
In her blog, ACEs Too High, journalist/child advocate, Jane Stevens brings to our attention a little high school in Le Grand (a rural town in Central California) that has eradicated zero-tolerance school discipline and replaced it with restorative justice practices to great success. The program, funded by the California Endowment, began as a group of twelve seniors, self-titled the “Restorative Justice League” acting as peer-mediators. Now, in it’s third year, the program has expanded and become a meaningful example for other California schools. Last year, suspensions were down 70% from two years prior, and expulsions dropped from six to just one.
Here are some clips from Stevens’ story:
At Le Grand High School, all 487 students are given a tablet computer for the year. They’re free to use cell phones (appropriately). One-third of the students participate in after-school programs, including martial arts and cooking. Where there used to be regular gang brawls, only two fights have occurred over the last two years. Half of last year’s graduates attend college.
The school, which also draws students from the nearby communities of Planada and Plainsburg, isn’t wealthy. In fact, the high school is 100% “free and reduced” — education-speak for the fact that students come from farm families (workers and owners) that live just above, at, or below poverty level. But [Principal Javier] Martinez is a grant-writing machine. Over the last five years, he’s brought nearly $2 million to the school to support technology and programs for the students and their parents, including a restorative justice program.
At the core of this restorative justice program is the Restorative Justice League. Starting off as a dozen students flailing uncomfortably with their mission, they evolved into a tight-knit band that jumped in to help resolve a major school crisis. In doing so, they became the tipping point in the school’s decision to jettison its zero tolerance policy, and replace it with a supportive approach to school discipline.
They trained to become peer mediators by role-playing made-up conflicts, and by discussing the confrontations they saw at school and developing strategies to intervene appropriately. Then Griggs gave them assignments, such as talking with a student they had never spoken to. Each took a different approach. For example, Briana Biagi talked with a fellow student at a college entrance exam, while Yuhuen Ceja texted to as many of the students as she could: “Who wants to be my friend?” “That got a lot of people talking to me,” she said.
By June, the Restorative Justice League students have trained 50 juniors, sophomores and freshman to be mentors for the 2013-2014 school year’s incoming freshmen. They hosted a restorative justice conference for students from surrounding school districts. And, they have seven interventions under their belts.
Their first intervention was for a fellow senior, a gang member who got into a fight and broke his hand. At an intervention panel, the Restorative Justice League members listen to students who have committed an offense that would normally result in suspension or expulsion, offer ideas for restitution, and, if the students agree, follow up to make sure they carry through. In the case of this gang member, they asked him to write a formal apology, to clean up after all school dances, and to become involved in something positive after school. The process uncorked his creativity and changed his life. He founded the Modeling Club – a fashion club that attracted 20 student members who learned how to do photography and magazine shoots, and put on modeling events for the school. He’s now attending Merced College.
(The above demonstration video was made by the student members of the Restorative Justice League for their fellow students.)
VETERAN’S GROUP PROVIDES MUCH-NEEDED HELP TO LA’S HOMELESS VET WOMEN
A Los Angeles VA outreach team led by chief of community care, Michelle Wilde, has prioritized finding and aiding LA’s homeless female veterans. The team combs through areas with dense homeless populations and reaches out to women whom, Wilde says, often don’t seek help because they don’t fit the “stereotype of a man coming back from war.” Through HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH), women are provided housing vouchers and helped to find homes, support, and treatment when needed.
LA Daily News’ Susan Abram has the story. Here’s a clip:
“Many women, when we initially outreach to them, may not even identify themselves as veterans,” said Michelle Wilde, chief of community care at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System.
“They still think of that stereotype of a man coming back from war,” Wilde added.
Wilde’s department was the first in the nation to organize an outreach team specifically to find and help homeless women veterans, whether they served tours overseas or stayed stateside, in times of war or in peace.
The team formed right on time, especially in Los Angeles County, when the number of homeless women veterans rose 51 percent from 2009 to 2011, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. That meant there were nearly 1,000 homeless women veterans living in cars, converted garages, and elsewhere across the region.
With some federal funds from the Obama administration’s “Opening Doors” initiative, the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Program has given projects like Wilde’s a boost in finding housing and assistance to homeless veterans.
Like men, women veterans also may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, some because of sexual assault. They may return home and find that family support has vanished. Or they may have returned to jobs that no exist.
But the outreach team’s efforts have helped. Of the 3,000 homeless veterans placed in homes, 10 percent were women. And the number of homeless veterans in Los Angeles County also has shown an overall drop, from 8,131 in 2011 to 6,248 this year according to the latest figures. Among women, the stats have fallen from 909 in 2011, to 352 this year.
BEFORE ABC7 AIRS BACA PITCHMAN STORY, HIS ENDORSEMENT VIDEOS MAGICALLY VANISH
Here’s a clip from the segment:
“Hi, I’m Lee Baca and I’m the Sheriff of Los Angeles County and I’m going to live to be 100 years old and beyond,” Baca says in a video. “You still need some nutritional support.”
Does this look like a commercial to you? The pitchman might make you do a double-take.
“The advice I give my friends who are trying to take full control of their body is to take the YOR Health products, sustain their daily nutritional needs and operate on less than 2,500 calories a day,” Baca says in the video.
“To me, this is 100 percent unethical,” says Dr. Maki Haberfeld of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
ABC7 noted that Baca has been a special guest speaker at YOR Health’s annual conferences every year since 2010, and appears in a YOR Health magazine.
Baca also stated at a 2010 Yor Health conference, “We are selling these products in the sheriff’s department emporium for the deputies,” Baca said at a 2010 conference.
So what, if anything, did the sheriff get in return?
ABC7 found that Yor Health gave Sheriff Baca a $1000 campaign donation in 2010, and a $527 reimbursement for travel expenses.
Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School, had this to say about whether the endorsement violates LA County’s conflict of interest laws:
“I’m not convinced that he’s kicked over that threshold, but when we look at the purpose of the conflict of interest statutes and the spirit of the law, then I think it’s perfectly fair to ask questions.”
ABC7 shared some complaints that had been made to the FTC:
“Yor Health is really a pyramid scheme.”
“It’s focused more on recruiting others than selling the actual product.”
“It brainwashes and manipulates people.”
…and “uses cult-like techniques to get people to join their company.”
The FTC wouldn’t disclose to ABC what was being done about the allegations, if anything.
When ABC7 did the math, they found that over a third of representatives made no money, and half of all representatives lose money.
ABC7 pointed out that today, after three years, the Yor Health videos featuring Sheriff Baca were made private and the sheriff’s photo was removed from the company’s website.
Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said that Sheriff Baca would now be separating himself from Yor Health, and that Baca was under the impression that the videos he shot were only for use within the company.
(CBS2 followed ABC7′s lead and also did a story on Baca’s Yor Health connection, which you can find here.)