Lobby Day Memories
On January 27th, a mixed delegation of WCA staff, board, and even family journeyed to Albany to lobby for Solutions Not Suspensions and Achieving Youth Justice. Although separate movements, they represent bookends of similar phenomena where inappropriate discipline measures are used on children in New York with detrimental results.
We rallied with partner organizations such as the Urban Youth Collective and Rockaway Youth Task Force in the earlier part of the day and participated in press conferences. Students delivered powerful chants and testimony to relay the importance of voting the Solutions Not Suspensions bill into law and ending the over-reliance on suspensions as a form of school discipline. Although this bill was submitted over 4 years ago, it has been stalled after a beta revision due to resistance in the Education Committee and its widespread implications. WCA supports this bill as our own research for the GPS4kids Baseline Report in 2018 showed the imbalance of suspension usage by zip code and race. Students came to Albany from around the state to speak about their own experiences of this disproportionate burden among young women of color, disabled students and LGBT+ orientation.
We also participated in a press conference for Raise the Age as we strove to achieve broader youth justice by raising the age of child prosecution, mandating all justice-involved youth stay in facilities operated by the Office of Children and Family Services, and seek inclusion of offenders as old as 24 within the youth offender category. The Raise the Age / Achieving Youth Justice press conference was energetic and urgent as we continue to build on the momentum of Raise the Age legislation implementation. We were also aware that progress made regarding pretrial and bail reform were facing opposition that would affect justice-involved youth and their families.
Our team of staff (Josh Prywes, Onya West, and Rebekah Raz, Alexander Ingram), board members (Chavonne Collins and Lutonya Russell-Humes), and partner Lisa Syron, Executive Director of Student Advocacy walked between the State Capitol Building and Legislative Offices to attend press conferences, legislator meetings, and deliver issue-specific documents throughout the day. In the end, we felt accomplished, revived, and energized to contine our efforts to support progress in these areas through advocacy and activism.
Senator Velmanette Montgomery, sponsor of the Solutions Not Suspensions Bill speaks at the press conference
Brian of Urban Youth Collective speaks on her experience as a LGBT+ student affected by suspensions
Alexander's Experience with the PIT Homeless Count
Our research on child and youth homelessness illuminated the importance of the Point-In-Time or PIT count in tallying the number of sheltered and unsheltered people living in America on a single night of January. This monumental task provides data required by HUD's Continuum of Care Coalition on the number of people experiencing homelessness in different locations in order to inform funding disbursement and housing program development. It is difficult to identify and count persons who are in these situations and even more challenging to do so when dependent on volunteer efforts to cover a county the size of Westchester with 45 municipalities.
Our MSW intern, Alexander Ingram, volunteered his time to participate in the recent PIT count in Westchester County and shared details of his experience through the lens of a graduate social work student with considerable advocacy and program management experience.
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