There is one election in Oakland this year, for the District 5 school board and election day is tomorrow, Tuesday November 7. With a divided board, the person elected will have the opportunity to cast a deciding vote. With so much at stake, we wanted to hear directly from the candidates so voters and the public can better understand their views and plans for their time in office. Students will be those most affected by the decisions the board makes, so we collected student questions from the Oakland Youth Commission to ask candidates Sasha Ritzie-Hernandez and Jorge Lerma. Look out for one more post on restorative justice. Here’s what the candidates had to say about school safety, graduation rates, charter schools, the school to prison pipeline and school closures.
What do you think about the use of Restorative Justice practices in OUSD, and do you think there should be a bigger emphasis on using Restorative Justice practices?
Restorative Justice has proven to be an effective method of communication and problem solving, no doubt about it. But as important as restorative justice, the school has to be just. Restorative Justice as a technique of improving communication cannot be denied. But the larger goal too is to restore humanity, to restore our kindness, to restore our communities in every school. No one technique can do that. We need to continue to build and restore our health and wellness by working in collaboration, by working in partnerships, by having a student voice on the community advisory board, the CPAP (the board that I sit on) which there are 55 communities councils across Oakland, that help maintain wellness and security in each community. Historically, students and families have not participated in that great resource. We need the parents to be on site. Again, things need to be always culturally competent. Whatever we do, in one language, we have to do it in multiple languages. I believe in the power of strengthening affinity groups, working with the people that look like you from your community, as much as working across the board, across nationalities, across language groups. So both approaches: working as an ethnic, Afrocentric, Latino centric, Asian centric, but also working as a community centric approach. So Restorative Justice? Yes. Expanding the program? Yes. But it can’t be the only program. We have to have Restorative Justice as part of our life in school, every day.
I believe so, I think that everybody needs to be trained on Restorative Justice practices and give an update every now and then to their trainings because I found it very helpful in spaces where I was supporting families at Reach Academy, and also Madison Park Academy. And we used a lot of Restorative Justice practices, even within our families, because we have a diverse group. So there’s sometimes tension, there’s sometimes arguments, there’s not always seeing eye to eye. So creating space for healthy communication is always helpful. I think Restorative Justice should be all the way around, it really should be a way of life for our students, for our administrators, for for all of our staff and for us as as community members and also our board members. I think that this needs to be something that we solidifie as part of the OUSD identity.