E2010 Wired

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SBCTA Co-Founder Gwen Samuel Calls for the State to Stop Taser Usage on Youth

My letter to leadership & Community (This is VERY serious … this can escalate to gun usage by SRO’s on children, if tasers are out of “reach” … I wish I was over exaggerating), Black males will really be endangered like never before! We DON’t have to accept every type of oppression and we don’t have to be afraid to fight for our children and communities! Its time for “house meetings” door to door neighbor to neighbor….Thats the bottom line!

Greetings Middletown BOE, CGA Judiciary Members, Candidates of 2010 & Community

My name is Gwendolyn Samuel, a Parent, Co-Founder and President of the State of Black CT Alliance (SBCTA), which convenes a statewide network of stakeholders committed to creating a high quality of life for Connecticut’s vulnerable communities through accountability, policy research, community services, education and advocacy.

First, I have a question that should raise serious concerns on local, state and federal levels. How does a high school student end up “tasered”, as a first response, toward diffusing a situation, when we have a multi-million dollar investment known as PBIS (Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports) or similar evidenced based interventions?

Maybe we could answer the question after you read the report via link entitled:

Hard Lessons: School Resource Officer Programs and School-Based Arrest in Three Connecticut Towns- a Report of the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Connecticut November 2008 (http://www.aclu.org/files/pdfs/racialjustice/hardlessons_november2008.pdf)

Context: As a result of the largest in the nation, knowledge/skill and opportunity gap better known as the achievement gap; parents, young future voters, young people, Connecticut’s school administrators, educators, elected officials, candidates running for office, philanthropy, and other local, state and federal decision makers agreed, for the most part, that ALL children deserve equitable access to a high quality education. Furthermore, we all agreed, for the most part, that children MUST be educated to a level of effectiveness that results in college, career and life ready high school graduates.

As a state, we are all equally accountable to ensure our young people’s academic success…this includes parents & young people. They should never be excluded from the decision making process, after all, they are the consumers of the product, related to your decisions as lawmakers, educators… You make the FINAL decision whether a child has equitable access or Not toward a high quality education.

Please, let us be clear regarding this situation. Education, the largest budget in our state of more than $7 Billion dollars a year in education spending (please correct me if I am mistaken), and millions of dollars invested in the Connecticut’s PBIS result in tasing as a first response to diffuse a child’s behavior.

PBIS is not a program or a curriculum but rather a systems approach to enhance the capacity of schools and districts to adopt and sustain the use of evidence-based practices for all students. A major advance in school-wide discipline is the emphasis on school-wide systems of support that include proactive strategies for defining, teaching, and supporting appropriate student behaviors to create positive school environments… PBIS also works to improve the overall school climate, decrease reactive management, maximize academic achievement for all students, integrate academic and behavioral initiatives, and address the specific needs of students with severe emotional and behavioral concerns…The main focus of School-wide Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (SW-PBIS) is to provide proactive and effective behavioral support for students at the universal level. This is accomplished when the host environment (i.e., the whole school community) establishes and maintains universal procedures that contain clear and consistent behavioral expectations. Opportunities for student success are enhanced by directly teaching universal expectations and establishing a school-wide system for reinforcing desired behavior. http://pbs.ctserc.com/

As a parent, I was taught by parent leadership trainings to heed best practices for child development, “follow the money” and learn to interpret data. Again, how then, does a CT educational multi-million dollar investment in PBIS to improve the overall school climate, decrease reactive management, maximize academic achievement for all students; integrate academic and behavioral initiatives result in electrocuting young people?

This appears to be over reactive and a page out of the school to prison pipeline book.

I would encourage the state to watch the CT-N Dignity in Schools Conference hosted by Congressman Murphy on August 25, 2010 in Meriden. Listen to the staggering numbers of suspensions and expulsions disproportionate to communities of color, special need and poor populations. We must also prepare to continue this conversation to ensure we are not electrocuting children as a “norm” to redirect poor decision making and behavior concerns, because death by taser is increasing and one cannot bring back a life of a child, even if it was an accident.

In closing, I would also request that we pay heed to the fact that school has ONLY been in session for NINE (9) days we have, at a minimum, 171 days to go. We cannot give up on children so easy. They trust the adults to make rationale informed decisions to help SHAPE their future. WE must look at our decision making process and ask ourselves the question, are OUR decisions in the best interest of young children? If we are to lead by character and best practices then we must not accept our shortcoming and we MUST do better. [Trying Hard is not Good EnoughMark Friedman]

Please note: there is a Press Conference being held by Middletown’s concerned community on September 14th at 4:00pm for more information contact Tawana Bourne at healthyhomehealthychild@yahoo.com

I thank you in advance for your prompt attention and timely response to this very serious matter.

Have a great week

Gwendolyn Samuel
State of Black CT Alliance
Tel: (203) 953-5154
Website: www.stateofblackct.org

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