We, the young people of Cincinnati, founded Young Activists Coalition to fight for a better and more equitable world for all people. YAC understands that the world we strive for must include an economy and a government that works for the people. We are willing to utilize any and all non-violent action to achieve this change – including protests, sit-ins, educational events, town halls, or other non-violent methods that will create justice. YAC approaches this fight with an intersectional lens. We demand justice for all marginalized communities, for communities of color, for the Queer community, for religious and non-religious communities, for the disabled community, and for those lacking socioeconomic privilege. We, the members of YAC, are optimistic that we can and will build a better world and a better tomorrow for us all.
As young people, there is no better place for us to start building a better world than our own schools. For too long, our schools have served as enforcers of the white supremacist, ableist, classist, and Queerphobic systems that plague our entire world. The good thing about this is that we have the incredible ability to imagine and create an entirely new and better world for ourselves. Just like people built the oppressive systems that are in our schools now, we can build radically loving systems in our schools designed to support our communities rather than to tear them down. For us, our first step towards liberation for all oppressed peoples begins when we Fix Our Schools.
In order to Fix Our Schools, the Young Activists Coalition demands that Cincinnati Public Schools:
- End school policing, including the removal of School Resource Officers (SROs) and police equipment
- Replace zero tolerance policies with restorative justice practices, including additional hiring of social workers, counselors, psychologists, and other mental health professionals.
- Clarify existing reporting channels for prohibited behavior, including staff misconduct, so that students and staff know what resources are available to them. Restorative practices should be applied to all situations possible, including both student and staff misconduct.
- Create an implementation board of 10-15 community members to oversee policy enactment
The establishment of a better world and of better schools requires two things: 1) the dismantling of the current systems working in our schools, and 2) the creation of new systems designed to help the children of Cincinnati Public School rather than criminalize and punish them. There is no issue in schools more pressing in our schools than its role in funneling students, especially Black and brown students, into the prison system and criminalizing them. The biggest contributors to this, in our eyes, is the lack of mental health resources for students, the use of punitive discipline, and the police presence within high schools. All of these contributors disproportionately impact or target Black and brown students. All of these contributors make Black and brown children significantly more likely to end up in prison. We can change all of these contributors to reflect a better world. A world where our kids are not constantly surrounded by the same officers that spent the summer of 2020 arresting hundreds of innocent protestors for fighting against police violence in our city. A world where Black and brown kids can mess up in schools and not have their futures stolen from them. A world where we have fixed our schools.
Young Activists Coalition, for the past year, has been working towards a single goal: the establishment of truly anti-racist CPS schools. This simple goal is what birthed the Fix Our Schools Campaign. When we first began the campaign in the summer of 2020, we attempted to achieve our demands peaceably, by emailing our board members and scheduling meetings with them to explain to them that all of the evidence pointed to the fact that cops and punitive discipline were harming kids. Eventually, it became clear to us that they wouldn’t listen to our pleas for them to do the right thing. So we stopped asking, and started demanding by organizing the community to do rallies, artistic demonstrations, blockades, and other forms of protests.
We kicked off the campaign by launching an email campaign to ask the school board for a simple request: the removal of police presence on school campuses and their replacement with well-funded and evidence-based restorative practices in the upcoming Anti-Racism Plan. Their response? Empty promises, vague claims, and a general disregard for the voices of concerned students and community members.
Board Protest I
After realizing that just speaking at Board Meetings wasn’t enough to catch the attention of the CPS School Board, we held our first rally during discussion of the CPS Anti-Racism and demanded that the proposed anti-racism policy include more than just empty words and promises and include concrete action to remove the police and punitive discipline from our schools.
Board Protest II
Our second rally outside of the CPS School Board Building took place during the vote to approve the CPS Anti-Racism Policy. Still, we were demanding the Board amend the policy to include concrete action instead of being solely empty words and promises. After this meeting, however, we began discussions with Board Member Mike Moroski, the primary leader behind the Anti-Racism Policy, and would eventually win him over to fully support our campaign and its demands.
In the month of April, we opened up an endorsement form and quickly received support from the following local organizations and candidates:
- Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition
- Cincinnati Tenants’ Union
- Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center
- Youth Led Alliance: Hear Us Now
- Cincinnati For Justice
- City Council Candidate Evan Holt
- Board Member Mike Moroski
ACLU of Ohio Supports Fix Our Schools
The ACLU of Ohio officially endorsed our campaign and used their platform to publish the data from Cincinnati Police Department and a testimonial by YAC’s President, Yousuf Munir.
SROs and Cincinnati Public Schools: My Story of Harm Left Untreated by Yousuf Munir
New Data Shows Over-policing and Lack of Accountability in Cincinnati Public Schools by Elena Thompson, legal fellow
Press Release – Alarming New Data Shows Over-Policing, Racial Disparities, and Lack of Accountability in Cincinnati Public Schools
Board Building Blockade
After over half a year of speaking at every single CPS board meeting, presenting data and sharing personal experiences, and rallying outside the board building to remove cops and punitive discipline out of Cincinnati Public Schools and replace them with adequate mental health supports and Restorative Justice, the Young Activists had had enough of waiting and begging for the Board Members to see reason. After the Board refused to let us present our data and solution on the Health & Safety Committee Meeting, we decided to take action into our own hands by blockading the entrance to CPS Board Building during the Board Meeting.
Fix Our Schools Rally
Picking up more and more endorsements and community support, we held a rally to get CPD out of CPS with speakers from YAC and Cincinnati Anti-Police Brutality Coalition.
We placed 105 lunchboxes in front of the school board building, each representing 4 students per school year who are arrested, served summons or warrants, or referred to other law enforcement by SROs. In short, these lunchboxes represent the 419 students entered into the criminal legal system in an average year. After the action, these lunchboxes were all donated afterwards to the Freestore Foodbank Kids Cafe.
Cookout for Our Schools
To kick off the events of this summer, we decided to show up at the first board meeting possible and build our community of organizers around the issue of removing CPD from CPS with a family-friendly cookout.
We tried to give Cincinnati Public Schools the opportunity to do the right thing on their own, but they refused. Now, we are fighting to build the future that we know we need. But we cannot do that on our own. We cannot do it without our community. We cannot do it without YOU.
You can support us by:
- If you are a student:
- Join our organization to fight for better schools with us!
- Fill out this survey on discipline in CPS!
- If you are a parent or community member:
- Join our Facebook group for parents!
- Fill out this survey on discipline in CPS!
- If you care about truly anti-racist schools: