As a former LAUSD student from the Miguel Contreras School of Social Justice and current freshman studying Aerospace and Biomedical Engineering at Santa Monica College, I’m one of thousands of young people in Los Angeles navigating school during the COVID-19 pandemic. It hasn’t been easy. Students across LA—especially students of color and those living in low-income communities—have lost the in-person connections we had with our peers, teachers, and school staff. We have struggled to keep learning with unequal access to technology, while dealing with both personal and global trauma.
The academic and social-emotional impacts of the past two years will stay with us for the rest of our lives. But that doesn’t have to hold us back. If we get the support we need from our leaders, and have authentic input into how our schools are run, we can grow stronger and make all of LA a better place.
Superintendent Carvalho, I am excited to see that your 100-day plan includes empowering student voices in LAUSD. Setting a plan is one thing, but putting it into action is another. I want to share some recommendations that I hope you and the LAUSD board will keep in mind.
Last year, Our Turn—a nonprofit organization where I am an intern—released the LA Student Agenda. Based on surveys of students across LAUSD, this report outlines the steps that LA’s young people most want to see from the district. A few themes came up throughout this report:
- Futurize our education mindset. Like most of the US education system, LA’s schools are steeped in systematic failures. We must reckon with our nation’s true history and dismantle systemic racism wherever it exists.
- End the school-to-prison pipeline. For too many LA students, the path to prison begins in the classroom. We need police-free schools. We need to invest more in our students, instead of criminalizing them with school police.
- Take learning loss seriously. While COVID-19 did not create an unequal playing field in LA, it catastrophically exacerbated educational inequities for Black and brown students. These gaps, if not urgently addressed, will only deepen over time.
- Support the whole student. Students are complex, intersectional beings. Schools must view us holistically and support our cognitive, emotional, physical, and mental health.
These are things that you and the LAUSD board can prioritize right away. But it’s also important to incorporate student input in a meaningful and ongoing way in district discussions. Our Turn has some key recommendations for making this happen:
- Voting Student Board Member: Ensure that every governing body within LAUSD has at least one student representative with voting power. Prioritize student representation from marginalized communities, such as students of color and students with disabilities.
- Ongoing Feedback Cycle: Ensure there are multiple opportunities for students to directly share feedback and experiences with the LAUSD board, beyond speaking at school board meetings.
- Accessible Board Meetings: Schedule board meetings at times and locations that are easily accessible for students to participate.
Students in LAUSD deserve to have our voices heard. As we move into year three of the COVID-19 pandemic, our concerns and ideas are more urgent than ever. Superintendent Carvalho, students are ready to work with you. Bring us in.
This article is part of a series sponsored by Great Public Schools Now, which has provided a grant to The Eastsider to expand education coverage. Over the next 10 weeks, we will publish letters to incoming LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho from various school and community stakeholders.
Edén Cristo, Student Leader, Our Turn