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Parents Fight to Keep Bilingual Class for Kindergarteners

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Latino parent leaders have been fighting the Oakland Unified School District for the past five months to preserve the only three classes that offer instruction and support for children in Spanish at Garfield Elementary School in the Fruitvale District that is largely Latino and serves a number of newly arrived Spanish-speaking immigrants.

 

According to current district data, 196 of Garfield Elementary’s 588 students are Spanish-language English Learners. The school is located at 1640 22nd Ave. near San Antonio Park.

 

Parent leaders began meeting with the school’s principal and started pushing for meetings with district administrators as soon as they learned in January that the district was planning to terminate the school’s only Kindergarten Spanish bilingual class next year as a step toward gradually phasing out the entire K through second-grade program.

 

At one of the first meetings, “We asked why do you guys want to remove the program? Our kids need the program,” said parent leader Gloria Chavez.

 

“They listened to us, they paid attention to us. At the end of the meeting, nothing was resolved,” she said.

 

“We have met five times with different people in the district. We don’t see any support for what we are fighting for,” said Pedro Topete, another of the parent leaders

 

The parents, Topete, Chavez and Nancy Sanchez, are officers of the school’s English Learner Advisory Committee, which according to the district website, serves to ensure that the needs of English Learners are addressed and as a way for families for whom English is a second language to get in contact and stay involved with the school.

 

The parent leaders met repeatedly with Principal Nima Tahai; Tahai’s boss Network Supt. Sondra Aguilera; and Nicole Knight, executive director of the English Learner and Multilingual Achievement Office.

 

Also attending several of the meetings were Boardmembers Roseanne Torres and Aimee Eng.

 

The last meeting was on April 13 between 50 to 60 parents at the school and Allen Smith, Chief of Schools and part of Supt. Antwan Wilson’s inner circle.

 

In a letter dated two days after the meeting, April 15, Smith wrote:

 

“After reviewing all of the information and listening to families at our meeting on April 13, 2015, we have decided not to offer a Kindergarten Spanish Bilingual class this upcoming school year, 2015-2016 at Garfield. We understand that this decision is hard for the families that have been involved in advocating for the program.”

 

“Although we believe in offering Spanish Bilingual programs in our district, we do not believe that offering a program at every single school is sustainable,” according to Smith.

 

The district’s rationale for terminating the program constantly changed during the months of meetings with different officials. The parents said that though the argument may have changed, the goal of shutting down their classes has remained constant, making them believe the district is not telling them the truth and is betraying their trust.

 

At the first meetings, the parents said they were told that the classes were under-enrolled, and they were accused of selfishly wanting something for their children that resulted in larger classes for other students and teachers.

 

But, under-enrollment turned out not to be the issue. The parents soon learned that staff in the school’s office had been instructed to tell parents who wanted to enroll their children in the classes that they were already full.

 

Topete contacted 24 parents who wanted to enroll in the program and submitted the list to the district. In response, district staff contracted the people on the list to tell them they could go to another school if they wanted a class with a Spanish-speaking instructor.

 

These parents were offered the right to transfer to Manzanita Community School, International Community School or an East Oakland charter school.

 

A number of parents felt that they were being intimidated by the district with threats that they would have to move to another school if they want a teacher who can explain homework and assignments to children in Spanish.

 

They also said that many of the parents, perhaps most, do not have access to cars. They cannot arrange for their children to arrive on time at different schools.

 

They say they like Garfield. They are part of a family there, and they contribute to the school. For some parents, these are the only people they know in this country.

 

According to Smith’s letter, a bilingual K-2 program is not as academically effective as a K-5 program offered at other schools. “Principal Tahai will continue to work with individual families to make the best choice between staying at Garfield or transferring to a Spanish bilingual program,” he said.

 

Smith did not say which of Garfield’s English Learner students would be eligible to transfer to a bilingual Spanish program and which of those would achieve better academically if they had bilingual instructors – only the parent leaders at Garfield or all of the school’s 196 English Learner students.

 

Latino educators point out that the student population of OUSD is over 40 percent Latino and growing. The refusal to offer these students appropriate instruction at their neighborhood school, they say, seems to what happens to poor children and immigrant students in the flatlands.

 

The needs and wishes of affluent parents and their children at hill schools are not dismissed in the same way, according to these longtime educators in Oakland.

 

The Garfield parent leaders sent a request two weeks ago to meet with Supt. Wilson but have not heard from him.

 

“There’s a growing feeling of intimidation from the principal and the district,” said parent leader Sanchez. “Parents feel (officials) are retaliating against those who are asking for their rights. So many parents are already holding back from making comments because they are afraid something will happen to their kids.”

 

Refusing to be intimidated, the parent leaders say they have already filed a discrimination complaint with the district and are making a complaint to the state.

 

“We are hoping to hear from other parents who are going through similar experiences,” said Sanchez. “We are willing to get together with them and give them support.”

 

The Garfield parents can be reached by email at azucenam21@hotmail.com.

Bay Area

East Oakland Stadium Alliance Update

When asked about railroad safety, given the active railroad lines that run along the front of the entire Howard Terminal site, Jacobs said, “We know the importance of rail to the port and we know the importance of rail safety. It’s reckless to ask people to cross the tracks to get to a baseball game without providing fully grade separate crossings at all intersections.”

 

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The East Oakland Stadium Alliance (EOSA) hosted a community meeting on Wednesday to educate and engage West Oakland residents on the impacts of the Oakland Athletics’ proposed ballpark stadium and luxury condo and office development at Howard Terminal on Market Street, in the heart of the industrial working port.  

 

After over a year-long delay, the City issued a Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the project at the end of February. The DEIR identifies a number of significant and unavoidable impacts that the project will have on the local environment, such as air quality, noise, and transportation hazards. With only 60 days to review a very technical and complex, 6,000-page document, West Oakland stakeholders and industry leaders came together during an open forum to discuss the project, review the DEIR process, and answer community members’ questions. 

 

West Oakland Resident Mercedes Rodriguez said the project would result in a “real big impact” on the community. She expressed concerns about the impacts on local residents due to increased traffic on game days and for special events. 

 

“We will have to pay for residential parking permits and that’s not fair,” said Rodriguez. “The A’s have not adequately addressed this concern.”

 

Melvin McKay, Vice President of ILWU Local 10, which employees represent Longshoremen at the Port of Oakland, emphasized the significant disruption the development would cause for the port and the jobs that would be threatened because of it.  

 

Aaron Wright, another ILWU leader, displayed life live footage for attendees to see the Port in action and explained how the loss of Howard Terminal would delay trucks coming in and out and lead current port customers to seek other, more reliable options. 

 

“We know what it is to make a good living and I know for a fact this will be bad for our industry,” said Wright.

 

“We have been at the Port for a long time and we know what it takes to move containers, and we know once the hotels and condominiums are built, the residents will go back to the City and complain about the noise and try to limit our hours or shut us down,” McKay added.

 

When asked about the purpose of Howard Terminal, McKay explained the Terminal has helped to get idling trucks waiting to pick up a container off West Oakland streets. Taking away this space will once again create congestion In West Oakland that residents have fought to minimize.

 

Mike Jacob, Vice President & General Counsel for Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, noted air quality is a major concern. Given the changes Port businesses have made to become more environmentally sustainable, a ballpark at Howard Terminal would create a “new emission source” and undermine investments businesses have made.

 

When asked about railroad safety, given the active railroad lines that run along the front of the entire Howard Terminal site, Jacobs said, “We know the importance of rail to the port and we know the importance of rail safety. It’s reckless to ask people to cross the tracks to get to a baseball game without providing fully grade separate crossings at all intersections.”

 

“It’s pretty shameful,” he added.

 

The City of Oakland Planning Commission will conduct a public hearing on the DEIR for the Oakland Waterfront Ballpark District Project on Wednesday, April 21 at 3:00 p.m. The hearing will be held online via Zoom and meeting information can be accessed on the following website: https://www.oaklandca.gov/boards-commissions/planning-commission

 

The final day to comment on the DEIR is April 27th. Comments can be submitted electronically at https://comment-tracker.esassoc.com/oaklandsportseir/index.html.

 

For more information about EOSA or to submit a petition opposing the Howard Terminal ballpark, go to www.eastoaklandstadiumalliance.com.

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Activism

Nation’s First Bill to Extend Victim Services to Survivors of Police Brutality

This would ensure that survivors of police violence and loved ones of those killed by police are no longer dependent on either a police report documenting the victimization, which is often elusive, or the opinion of involved police when assessing a victim’s responsibility. 

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The California Senate’s Committee on Public Safety this week unanimously passed SB 299. Authored by Senator Connie Leyva (SD-20), which would extend services to victims of police violence and expand eligibility for survivors of homicide victims.

“It is unacceptable that in order to receive assistance through the Victim Compensation program, police reports and the opinion of police would carry such heavy weight in the application for compensation when the injuries were sustained as a result of police actions,” Senator Leyva said.

 “SB 299 will improve access to vital resources for victims of police violence as they recover from the physical and emotional injuries caused due to the actions of police or—in the cases of individuals killed by police—be able to bury their loved ones with dignity and respect,” he said. 

“Just as the state’s Victims Compensation program can use evidence beyond police reports for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and human trafficking, so too do victims of police violence deserve similar recognition of their circumstances so that they can get fair access to the help they need.”

Police reports and opinion can also prevent families of homicide victims from obtaining compensation, without any recourse or due process. Families in shock at a violent loss then struggle to bury their loved ones. SB 299 would, for the first time, expand eligibility to make sure survivors of homicide victims are not denied based on the contents of inaccurate, unfair or biased police reports.

“We cannot continue to let the police decide who is a ‘deserving’ victim,” says Youth ALIVE! Director of Programs, Kyndra Simmons. “This has prevented many survivors and victims, including victims of police violence, from accessing the resources and support meant to help them heal.”

“Qualifying for victim compensation was life-changing for me after my son Jordan was killed,” says Tonya Lancaster, trauma survivor and Youth ALIVE! client. “I want to see that support for everybody who needs it.”

Under existing law, victims of limited types of crimes are eligible to receive compensation from the California Victim Compensation Board’s Restitution Fund. That compensation can cover a range of needs spanning medical expenses, burial expenses, wage and income loss and much more. 

SB 299 would extend this eligibility to include incidents in which an individual sustains serious bodily injury or death as a result of a law enforcement officer’s use of force, regardless of whether the law enforcement officer is arrested for, charged with, or convicted of committing a crime. 

This would ensure that survivors of police violence and loved ones of those killed by police are no longer dependent on either a police report documenting the victimization, which is often elusive, or the opinion of involved police when assessing a victim’s responsibility. 

“We cannot tolerate treating victims of police violence with any less care and compassion than we extend to other crime victims,” said Controller Betty Yee, California’s chief fiscal officer. “We must work toward a just, fair, and peaceful society, and this expansion of victim compensation is one small step in that work.”

“”Advocacy for victims must include all victims and survivors, regardless of who caused the harm. That’s why my office started a first-in-the-state program in 2020 to ensure that our Victim Services Division compensates victims of police violence like any other victim,” said San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin.  

“Unlike victims of other crimes, victims of police brutality are commonly denied access to victims compensation funds to cover burial costs, medical expenses, lost income, therapy and more,” said Prosecutors Alliance Executive Director Cristine Soto DeBerry. “No one should have to start a GoFundMe page to cover the costs of burying a loved one lost to violence.”

SB299 is co-sponsored by California Controller Betty Yee, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón, Californians for Safety and Justice, the Prosecutors Alliance of California, and Youth ALIVE! It will be heard next by the Senate Committee on Appropriations.

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Community

Is America Failing Millennials and Generation Z’s?

Out of the 20 mass shootings and violent attacks since March 1st, one very distressing element stands out—a number of the attacks were carried out by GenZ’s (14-24 years) and Millennials (25-38 years), from diverse racial groups, and regions of the United States.

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During the last two weeks of March and first week of April 2021, Americans were shocked with alarming news of mass shootings and violent attacks in Atlanta, Georgia, Boulder Colorado, Washington, D.C. and York County, South Carolina. Out of the 20 mass shootings and violent attacks since March 1st, one very distressing element stands out—a number of the attacks were carried out by GenZ’s (14-24 years) and Millennials (25-38 years), from diverse racial groups, and regions of the United States.
For example, on April 7, 2021 in York County, South Carolina, 32 year old Millennial and former NFL Player Philip Adams committed a mass shooting of a renowned local Doctor, his wife, grandchildren and two workers. Early reports say Adams, who later committed suicide, suffered from football related brain concussions. On April 2nd in Washington, D.C. 25 year old Millennial Noah Green rammed his car into two Capitol Hill Officers and killed one of the Officers, and injured the other.
Reports from his family indicate Noah was suffering from prescription drug use, paranoia and depression. He was killed at the scene of the violence. On March 18th, 21 year old GenZ Robert Aaron Long, killed eight (8) Asian spa workers and their customers, at massage parlors in Georgia. He claimed sex addiction as a reason for his behavior. And on March 22nd in Boulder, Colorado, 21 year old Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, and killed ten people at a grocery store. His relatives and schoolmates say Aliwi was bullied in school for being Muslim and retaliated with anger.
These four young men who perpetrated violence were from diverse racial groups, and in different regions of the country. But, what they had in common was they were either Millennials or GenZ’s who were obviously suffering from serious mental health issues. What was being done to help them? Where were their parents, mentors, faith leaders, aunts, uncles, social workers, colleagues, etc.? Did they have trained support or, were they dealing with their crisis mostly alone?
Generation X and Baby Boomers in America have to stop being self-absorbed and start paying attention to depressed GenZ and Millennial individuals. According to the 2019 US Census reports, these groups now make up the largest age-based demographic groups in the United States. These young people know how and where to purchase guns, how to make guns using 3D technology—known as Ghost Guns and they are strongly influenced by video games, violent movies, aggressive sports and even aggressive relatives who commit domestic violence.
Research by the Anne Casey Foundation finds that GenZ’s are suffering from high levels of depression, and this must be taken seriously. Plus, they are impacted by the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Armaud Arbery, many more Black men and women…
But, how can Generation X and Baby Boomers help Millennials and GenZ’s who are suffering from anxiety, Covid-Lockdowns, student debt, job loss and other societal factors? Since taking office, President Joe Biden is starting to focus on these issues. On April 8, 2021, the President and Attorney General Merrick Garland, announced a series of Executive Orders designed to stop violence and promote violence prevention. Their plan will target grants for communities, to mobilize violence prevention programs. These actions are to be applauded but, it is important that the programs be implemented effectively, with feedback from affected communities of color.
Black Women for Positive Change, a national multi-cultural, intergenerational network of women and Good Brothers, has sponsored ten (10) years of Annual Weeks of Non-Violence. During those years, we have heard a multitude of stories from participants about causes of violence, depression and anxiety. We have found that many GenZ’s and Millennials suffer from lack of parenting, mentorship and productive, engaging activities. We have also found stigmatization of mental health and fear of families of color to seek help for disturbed youth. In addition, our outreach informs us that Millennials and GenZ’s complain about lack of opportunities and dreams for their futures.
Therefore, it is important for the Biden Administration to factor in the need for “Opportunities” in violence prevention programs to assist youth with overcoming the obstacles of the Covid-19 pandemic, job loss, single headed households under pressures, and other issues. New approaches are needed to provide GenZ’s and Millennials with opportunities to move forward, overcome obstacles and have productive, positive lives.
Dr. Stephanie Myers/Washington, DC, is National Co-Chair, Black Women for Positive Change, and Jan Perry/Los Angeles, CA., is Chair, Social Action Committee, Black Women for Positive Change. www.blackwomenforpositivechange.org

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