Youth Justice Coalition Offers Advocacy Training
The Escambia Youth Justice Coalition (EYJC), in conjunction with the youth organization Str8 Up Pensacola, is holding a youth advocate training workshop this evening in Pensacola. The event is being held in observance of Youth Justice Awareness Month.
The Youth Justice Coalition is made up of a broad base of members, who’ve come together to advocate for juvenile justice reform in the Escambia County school system.
Escambia is one of five districts in North Florida under investigation by the Department of Education office for civil rights for discrimination in their disciplinary policies. And, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which filed the complaint, Escambia leads the state in school-based arrests.
Keyontay Humphries is regional organizer for the ACLU of Northwest Florida, a coalition member and workshop organizer. She says to explain just how the juvenile justice system works, they’ve called on local attorney Mary McDaniel for a presentation titled ‘Know Your Rights: (from) Arrest to Adjudication.’
“We believe that part of the problem as to why the statistics are so high in our county is because many times families don’t understand the system. And, so they may be taking plea deals or agreeing to things they just don’t really understand. And so we want to empower parents and children alike to know what is all entailed in the system,” says Humphries.
Attorney Amir Whitaker from the Southern Poverty Law Center, will talk specifically about ‘School Discipline and Push-Out.’
“What rights to students have if they’re questioned by police; what rights should they be expelled, how soon can they return to classroom.” Humphries continues, “what happens should child be suspended? Does a family have a chance to make up work? (It’s) all of those things that are the result of school discipline.”
Humphries says more needs to be done on that front. But, she acknowledges that there has been some improvement within the Escambia School District; which is making greater use of in-school suspension, and providing more alternative programs and interventions for students.
In addition to October being Youth Justice Awareness Month, it’s also Bullying Prevention Month. So, rounding out the workshop, Humphries will make a presentation on Bullying Prevention and Intervention.
“What is bullying, what does it look like, what does it sound like, who can bully, and basically that anybody can be a victim.” Humphries says her talk will focus on different types of bullying, which can be based on social orientation, gender identity, able-ness, and appearance. And, she’ll discuss what rights parents have if their child is being bullied in school.
Also, there will be a discussion of Exceptional Student Education Testing and Services. The Youth Advocate Training event will be held at the Woodland Heights Community Resource Center, tonight beginning at 6 o’clock.