Webinar: “Beyond the First Look: Turning Local Data Into Action”


As part of the Schott Foundation’s Grassroots Education Series, we moderated a webinar on July 7, featuring our grantee partner Dignity in Schools Campaign, a national network that challenges the systemic problem of pushout in our nation’s schools and works to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline.

During the webinar, “Beyond the First Look: Turning Local Data Into Action”, approximately 200 participants joined a discussion of the results of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights 2013-2014 “A First Look” data, which surveyed all public schools and school districts in the United States. Webinar participants included Citizens for a Better Greenville (MS) Director Joyce Parker, Racial Justice NOW! (OH) Co-founder and Director Zakiya Sankara-Jabar, and Gwinnett SToPP (GA) Founder Marlyn Tillman. The briefing allowed time to explore the data and to discuss how the advocates involved in the webinar can use this data to drive organizing work grounded in racial justice.

Sankara-Jabar began the discussion by pointing out that “overall, school discipline and suspensions have decreased but racial disparity has increased, even with an overall reduction.” She listed examples of the data that proves the discipline disparity – 2.8 million students are suspended each year, 1.1 million of which are black; black boys represent 8% of all students, but 19% of students expelled. Encouraging further research into advocates’ specific school district of interest, Sankara-Jabar relayed the information that starting in August, the U.S. Department of Education will launch an updated online portal that will allow searches within the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) for 2013-14 data on a specific school or district.

Tillman echoed Sankara-Jabar’s concern, stating, “the good news is that suspensions overall are down, however racial disparities in suspensions still persist.” She explained that the presence of law enforcement in school restricts black students from getting the same academic experience as whites. Tillman also brought to the discussion the concern of teacher demographic compared to that of students nationwide, saying “our students are diverse, but educator workforce is overwhelmingly white.”

Parker provided maps of Mississippi to portray the correlation between school districts with low grades and high critical teacher shortages. She emphasized that the data provided by the U.S. Department of Education only represents the symptoms of the problem within the education system. Parker identified the value in using the data as self-assessment tools for school districts to examine their compliance, and urged that “this is going to be a local fight.”

The bottom line is that students cannot learn if they are not in school. With factors such as racial disparities in suspension and expulsion, and a disconnect between national demographics and teacher demographics, we have a lot of work to do in order to provide black students with a safe school environment. Thankfully, advocates like Joyce Parker, Zakiya Sankara-Jabar, and Marlyn Tillman, and all others involved in the Dignity in Schools Campaign, continue to keep the discussion alive and fight for a better public education system.

Zakiya Sankara-Jabar Co-Founder/Director at Racial Justice NOW! on the next Miami Valley Speaks


Zakiya will talk exclusively on the need for the Town Hall meeting on voting on August 5th. Community Volunteer Keith Lander will give us the meaning of “voter purge” and what does the 1965 Voting Rights Act has to do with what’s going on today.

Role of police in school questioned, Experts say right officers needed to keep schools safe

Dayton Daily News


By Jeremy P. Kelley – Staff Writer
Friday, November 27, 2015

Video of a police officer violently arresting a student who wouldn’t leave her desk last month in South Carolina has intensified the debate over the role of police in schools — with at least one local group seeking their removal.

A survey of 22 local school districts found that most large districts have local police regularly serving as School Resource Officers in their buildings. Several other districts without SROs cite an open-door policy with their police departments.

Local police and national safety experts say the key to avoiding confrontations like the South Carolina case is choosing the right officers to work in schools and specifically training them how to de-escalate tense situations with teenagers.

But Racial Justice NOW!, a local parent organization that has worked closely with Dayton Public Schools on a variety of issues in the past year, argues that role is better filled by non-police intervention workers, suggesting that students would be more open with them than with police.

Zakiya Sankara Jabar, director of the group, cites trust barriers between police and black communities stemming from shootings in Ferguson, Mo.; Chicago, Cleveland and Beavercreek. She said the national Dignity in Schools campaign is currently crafting a letter to federal education officials, calling for the removal of police from schools.

“There seems to be an (out-sized) need to have security measures in urban schools, instead of a more holistic positive school climate,” Jabar said. “Things are too punitive and younger children internalize that. That’s a big reason why a lot of children become disengaged in schools.”

National flashpoint

South Carolina sheriff’s deputy Ben Fields was fired in October after throwing a non-cooperative student and her desk to the ground, then forcefully dragging her across a classroom floor.

Mo Canady, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers, said Fields wasn’t trained by his organization, adding that the brief video shows the importance of training and technique.

“There really is not a national standard and there needs to be to some degree. This is probably the most unique assignment in law enforcement and it’s not for just anybody,” Canady said. “We train officers that if they’re in a setting like that where there are other students, you need to remove the audience. In many cases, that opens communication, and the student feels less motivated to act out without their peers present. You can get them talking to you and de-escalate the situation.”

School by school

Dayton-area schools take a variety of approaches, largely depending on the size of the district. The 10 largest districts in the area all have school resource officer or security officer programs, according to district officials.

Kettering and Huber Heights schools each have two SROs, supported by private security guards at the high school. Centerville and Northmont have three SROs, in part because their school districts straddle multiple police jurisdictions. Springboro, Miamisburg and Xenia each have one SRO. Beavercreek has an SRO program but was the only district to refuse to answer questions about it, citing “security protocols.”

Huber Heights Superintendent Susan Gunnell said the goal at her district is for SROs to help provide a safe school environment, but also to build positive relationships with students and teach safety-related classes.

“Our SRO’s have conducted classes on women’s self-defense for both staff and students,” Gunnell said. “They have provided information in classes on internet safety, anti-bullying and teen violence. And they have conducted parent meetings on internet safety.”

Mid-sized and smaller districts are less likely to have a formal SRO program, with Bellbrook and Trotwood-Madison among the exceptions. (Trotwood just restarted its program this fall.) Many districts, including Vandalia-Butler, Tipp City, Northridge and New Lebanon, have no contracted agreement but refer to an “open door policy” with their local police departments.

“They can come into the buildings anytime they want,” Vandalia-Butler Superintendent Brad Neavin said of local police. “They check in with the office, and they may want to walk the halls or come in during lunchtime and interact with the kids in a positive way.”

Dayton’s approach

While most school districts contract with local police, Dayton Public Schools hires its own security officers, with 26 currently on staff, including two full-time at each high school.

Those officers must complete the 143-hour Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy’s private security basic training course and pass the test. That training — much less than what’s needed to become a police officer — earns them the city of Dayton’s Special Institutional Police License, which gives them arrest powers. They carry handcuffs but not firearms.

Richard Wright, associate director of safety and security for DPS, said none of his officers has made an arrest at school in the past few years. He said the approach is “hands-off” unless a student is harming himself, a classmate or a staff member.

“Our main objective is to discourage disruption to the educational process,” Wright said. “We’re not there to make arrests. Nobody’s there who’s gung-ho on trying to get a child in trouble.”There are hiccups, but I try to call the police as little as possible. If we can’t handle it, let’s ask what’s really going on? What’s the root problem, and let’s try to rectify that.”

DPS students interviewed about school security had few complaints other than questioning some morning metal detector procedures. Ponitz CTC senior Virginia Nsabimana said she hasn’t seen any DPS officers step over the line.

Thurgood Marshall High freshman Christian Peoples said the security officers are respectful, even when students don’t return the favor. Thurgood junior Justice Sheppard said officers get involved when there are fights, drug issues or students roaming the halls.

“They don’t try to use force — they just try to talk to us first, like with a warning or something,” Sheppard said.

David Johnson is in his 20th year as a DPS security officer, currently at Thurgood, and he said Wright and safety director Jamie Bullens, both former local police officers, require significant ongoing training even for veteran officers. But he agreed with Canady that it takes the right kind of person, with patience.

“When you go into a classroom to get a student — and I’ve gone in hundreds of times — you have to have a rapport,” Johnson said. “I don’t embarrass a student. I say, ‘Come on with me; whatever happened is over with.’ I’ve never had to drag a student out, and I’ve never felt unsafe. The students have to really trust you … that you’re not just trying to get them suspended.”

But Jabar said her Racial Justice NOW! group is concerned over how often students are suspended at DPS, and she pointed to a significant rise in August and September of this year, compared to the same period in 2014.

DPS officials said suspension decisions are made by principals and other administrators, not security officers, and have declined since 2012-13.

Kettering’s model

Two Kettering police officers serve as School Resource Officers, and SRO Wendy Miller said the officers take a three-tiered approach — investigating crime and enforcing the law when necessary, educating students on topics like drugs and alcohol or internet safety, and also serving as mentors.

“You’re dealing with children and some of them are very young, so you take that into consideration,” said Miller, who works primarily with middle school and elementary school students. “Just because something’s happened doesn’t mean we have to charge them and send them to court. We try to use other options besides arresting.”

Miller supports having designated SROs because they develop knowledge and trust with students and staff that other officers just visiting the building may not have.

“We’re also more up-to-date on training and legal standards relating to schools and juveniles,” Miller said. “A detective might have special training in violent crimes, so they’re the appropriate specialists there. We’re the specialists in schools.”

Kettering’s two SROs are traditional armed officers funded by the city, and Lt. Dan Gangwer said the police department hopes to have Miller and SRO Carla Sacher train more officers so they can fill in effectively when needed. A third position previously funded by the schools was discontinued.

The expense of staffing SROs has led to cutbacks in some districts. Valley View eliminated its SRO position because of cost, and Huber Heights temporarily cut one position in 2012-13 due to budget cuts. Fairborn hopes to be able to add a second SRO, and Trotwood’s city and schools are splitting the cost of their newly assigned SRO.

Kettering senior Erika Brandenburg said she appreciated the presence of SROs in the high school, and junior Dominic Moore called them “very respectful of the students.”

He credited resource officers with helping calm a potentially explosive situation earlier this year after controversy erupted when a group of students were flying Confederate flags from their trucks.

“The police have enforced those rules, but (students) respectfully said OK and took the flags down,” Moore said. “It could have gotten a little out of hand, but we ended up working it all out with them without too much tension.”

Junior Travis Malone said he’s talked to a few SROs, and he said the officers don’t intimidate students, adding that it gives him a “protected feeling. That’s nice to have around school, given all that goes on these days,” he said.

Suspensions a concern

Jabar said data is difficult to find on school-based arrests, but Racial Justice NOW and others worry about zero-tolerance policies and high rates of discipline in general in urban public schools.

From 2009-13, Dayton Public Schools averaged 6,634 suspensions per year in a district with roughly 14,000 students.

Jabar also pointed to federal data from the Schott Foundation report for 2015, which found that black male students in Ohio are suspended almost four times as often as white male students — a gap that is slightly above the national average.

The foundation, which advocates for equity in education, argues that schools continue to use out-of-school suspensions as a disciplinary tool even though research suggests they serve only to reinforce negative student behavior.

Canady, of NASRO, countered with Department of Justice data showing that juvenile arrests on the whole dropped almost 50 percent in the 1990s and 2000s.

Local School Resource Officers said the key is building relationships and being proactive so a situation doesn’t escalate and a suspension or arrest isn’t necessary.

Johnson said those efforts at Thurgood Marshall mean students will often confide in him if they hear a fight is brewing.

And Miller told the story of a middle schooler in Kettering who endured serious family turmoil and “could have gone either way.” After getting support from her and others at school, the girl is getting good grades, made a school team and now emails Miller regularly.

“It’s important that kids see you not as the bad guy, so to speak,” said Sacher, Kettering’s other SRO. “If you come into a situation where you’ve built a relationship and can communicate with them, anything that goes wrong is easier to work through.”

Community members praise, criticize tax hike request

About 70 percent of people who pay tax don’t live in Dayton.

Dayton Daily News

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Dayton’s first request for an income tax increase in 32 years has drawn mixed reviews from community members who are divided over the prospect of paying higher taxes and whether the things a tax increase would pay for are worth it.

On Nov. 8, Dayton voters will decide whether to increase the earnings tax to 2.5 percent from 2.25 percent. It will generate nearly $11 million annually in new revenue.

City officials estimate 70 percent of the people who pay the earnings tax work in the city but live elsewhere.

Supporters say the money will close a projected budget shortfall and fund critical projects, programs, additional staff and other improvements that they say will make Dayton more competitive and attractive to residents and businesses.

“We cannot continue to cut our way to our future,” said Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley. “We have to have this 0.25 percent tax.”

But critics say Dayton has dumped money into bad real estate deals, development projects and other unwise endeavors, and say the city should balance its budget instead of raising taxes on people who live and work in Dayton.
Community members praise, criticize tax hike request
Community members praise, criticize tax hike request

“If you were a business, you would be out of business,” said Ronald Markert, the vice chairman for research with the department of internal medicine at Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine. Markert works in Dayton.

If voters approve the tax increase, the city plans to use the new revenue to close a projected $5 million budget shortfall, increase police staffing and patrols, maintain current levels of fire protection and pay for park enhancements.

The signature initiative of the proposal is universal pre-kindergarten for all 4-year-old children in Dayton.

The income tax measure appears as Issue 9 on the November ballot. The tax would expire after eight years.

Groups that have endorsed the tax levy include the executive board of the city’s largest union, the Downtown Dayton Partnership, the Dayton Area Board of Realtors’ political action committee, the Montgomery County Democratic Party and the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce.

“The city made a strong case for new revenues going to enhance pre-school education for Dayton’s youth, enhanced police and safety services and improved roads and parks,” said Phil Parker, president and CEO of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce.

The additional tax will protect and expand many of the city’s essential services, said Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein at a recent press conference.

The city will add 20 police officers and increase police presence in crime hot spots while also funding more proactive law enforcement activities to prevent crime before it happens, she said.

The city also plans to use $3.3 million of the new funding each year on road repairs, and almost 80 percent of the city’s residential streets would be resurfaced by the end of the eight-year tax period, Dickstein said.

Without new revenue, the city will have to cut fire personnel and reduce spending on capital equipment, she said.

“The 0.25 percent allows us to continue the fight against blight, increase safety and create a higher quality of life in our neighborhoods,” she said.

The city maintains 5,700 vacant lots and would use some of the additional revenue to mow them every month instead of two to three times per year.

People who work in the city and pay the income tax but live elsewhere cannot vote on the tax hike; only residents can. Markert, who lives in Washington Twp. but whose office is at Miami Valley Hospital, said that is unfair.

The city should poll Dayton workers who live elsewhere about their opinions of higher taxes, because this tax hike will primarily impact their finances, Markert said.

Also, the city and the backers of the tax levy have not set measurable goals to ensure the new revenue is used wisely and appropriately and that taxpayers receive a return on their investment, Markert said.

David Esrati, a former city commission candidate and a vocal critic of Dayton’s elected leadership, has publicly denounced the city’s spending priorities. Other community members have questioned the city’s investment in downtown real estate.

The city spent millions of dollars while on a shopping spree for old office buildings and languishing commercial properties that have no immediate public use, Esrati said during public comment portion of an August commission meeting.

“You weren’t hired to be real estate speculators — you were hired to run a city and provide services to our citizens. You’re failing,” he said.

Former Dayton City Commission candidate Darryl Fairchild said elected leaders are downplaying the financial burden of the tax hike, which would cost a Dayton worker earning $35,000 annually about $1.60 more each week.

For families struggling to make ends meet, $1.60 more per week is a big deal and adds up because over time they could have spent that money on necessities like a winter coat, utility bill or trip to the grocery store, he said.

But city officials contend the new revenue will help fund programs that will shape Dayton’s future in important and long-lasting ways.

Three out of four Dayton children do not begin kindergarten ready to learn, and which results in lower test scores, fewer graduates and a weaker workforce and economy, said Mayor Whaley.

About $4 million of the funds will be directed toward providing high-quality, universal pre-kindergarten for every child in the city.

A demonstration of the “Preschool Promise” program is taking place in Northwest Dayton and Kettering.

The additional income tax revenue would allow the program to expand Dayton-wide, benefiting about 1,900 children who are 4 years old, Whaley said.

About 80 percent of children in Dayton start kindergarten unprepared, and preventing them from falling behind will have a big impact on later economic success, she said.

If the tax measure passes, Dayton will become the first city in the Midwest to have universal pre-kindergarten, Whaley said.

Every family in Dayton will have the opportunity to send their child to one year of preschool in the city, including middle class households, said Robyn Lightcap, director of ReadySetSoar.

Within a decade, they hope to increase the share of children in Dayton who attend a preschool program to 70 percent from 40 percent today, she said.

“We know preschool is an important anchor, and it is an important investment in the future workforce of our community,” she said.

But Dayton Public Schools has a good pre-school program and the public-private partnership the city is proposing to fund lacks accountability to ensure it is fair and effective, said Zakiya Sankara-Jabar, executive director of Racial Justice NOW!, which advocates for eliminating “instutitional and systemic” racism.

Racial Justice NOW! opposes passage of the income tax hike, a position the group took in part because of the city administration’s unwillingness to adopt a crime prevention program and policies to economically invest in high-crime, low-opportunity areas, Sankara-Jabar said.

“To vote no is to stop the process and really force them back to the table to come up with something that is really inclusive and is what all of Dayton wants,” she said.

Racial-justice group opposes Dayton Issue 9

Posted: 3:44 p.m. Wednesday, October 26, 2016


A 0.25-percent earnings tax increase makes ballot Issue 9 a hot button topic for voters in Dayton on Nov. 8. Interestingly enough, the majority of those charged with paying this tax hike live outside of Dayton. What Mayor Nan Whaley is proposing for 70 percent of non-residential tax payers is not what it seems.

Mismanagement of current budget, over policing of targeted neighborhoods, and feeding the School-To-Prison-Pipeline without any economic value for residents or return of investment for taxpayers is the quick and dirty interpretation of what supporters of Issue 9 are pushing.

This tax increase proposal to close a projected budget shortfall leaves a lot of questions. What has created this projected budget shortfall? Currently the city owns 5,700 vacant lots. What is the plan for those? Could those lots be used to create revenue with a strong community economic development plan?

The city spending millions of dollars of its current budget on old office buildings and commercial properties has been bad business. They are also choosing to support mostly high-end development in the city core, which means they will be driving out lower-income residents. Needless to say, Issue 9 will create a financial burden for those struggling to make ends meet without the benefit or even the promise of increasing opportunities and resources for residents, such as jobs and access to quality food.

Adding more police keeps the focus of lowering crime on stopping crime after it occurs instead of spending on prevention by focusing on poverty and mental health services and reentry programs.

Whaley sells this idea that funding public-to-private partnerships for universal preschool for all 4-year-olds in Dayton strengthens the future of the workforce with quality workers, but hasn’t created a plan that ensures provisions for the students to have fair and equal treatment. Without this type of accountability, the very thing Whaley says the $4 million that will come from the tax increase prevents becomes the inevitable. Students will continue to fall behind, impacting their future economic success. …

Racial Justice NOW! advocates for positive and effective alternatives to address developmentally appropriate behaviors, ensuring students social and emotional well-being and academic, long-term economic success. Issue 9 does not have a plan for this type of accountability and this is why RJN strongly opposes Issue 9.

This tax hike that is sugar-coated with the promise of kindergarten readiness and safer neighborhoods directly supports the School-To-Prison Pipeline and privatization. The City of Dayton doesn’t need more police or the funding of private preschool programs when it has failed to implement quality crime prevention programs as opposed to buying up real estate. Additionally, Dayton Public Schools has a good preschool program. What this city needs is more accountability that ensures fair and effective treatment of its residents with programs and policies to economically invest in high-crime, low-opportunity areas.

ZAKIYA SANKARA-JABAR, DAYTON. Ms. Sankara-Jabar is executive director of Racial Justice NOW!

NAACP to host Racial Justice Now co-founder

Dayton Daily News

The Dayton Unit NAACP will hold its monthly community meeting entitled, “Stopping The School To Prison Pipeline” at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Dayton Boys Preparatory Academy, 1923 W. Third St.

The guest speaker will be Vernellia Randall, co-founder of Racial Justice Now. The moderator will be Atty. Mia Wortham-Spells, chair of the Dayton Unit NAACP Legal Redress Committee.

For more information, call 937-222-2172. STAFF REPORT