Websites of Grassroots Organizations

VOYCE: Voices of Youth in Chicago EducationVOYCE

VOYCE is an organizing collaborative of youths of color from five Chicago community organizations: Action Now Institute, Albany Park Neighborhood Council, Logan Square Neighborhood Association, Oakland Community Organization, and Southwest Organizing Project. The collaborative organizes for strict limits on practices of exclusionary discipline, the establishment of a public database regarding discipline in schools, more investing in social and emotional supports, increased quality of teaching and learning, and various methods of preventing and responding to misbehavior that is grounded in research. So far, the collaborative’s efforts have culminated in a new Student Code of Conduct that no longer has “two-week out-of-school suspensions” for offenses that are minor, has reduced the maximum suspension time by half, and has ended the practice of arresting students for misconduct.1

Urban Youth CollaborativeUYC Photo

Urban Youth Collaborative is a city-wide collaborative of New York City students fighting for “social, economic, and racial justice” in both their schools and in their communities. The collaborative’s school-to-prison pipeline campaign calls for: stopping suspensions for infractions such as “Defying Authority,” funding for and the implementation of a district-wide restorative justice approach to deal with discipline, such as having guidance interventions rather than school suspensions, and a new MOU that would give principals the responsibility of school safety, limit the influence of school safety officers in regards to minor infractions, and prevent the handcuffing of students for minor infractions. The collaborative also calls for transparency in that they want school discipline records to be public and to include breakdowns according to within-school demographic groups, while also calling for information being made available to parents and students about their rights when it comes to disciplinary practices.2

Youth Justice Coalition

Through “direct action organizing, advocacy, political education, transformative justice and activist art,” the Youth Justice Coalition(YJC) seeks to build a movement led by youths, families, and prisoners in an effort to confront various inequalities in the “injustice” systems of LA County and California. One of the coalition’s campaigns is to attack the county’s school-to-prison pipeline by pushing the county to develop community-centered alternatives to the suspension and expulsion of students in schools, the arrest of students, the use of the court system on students, and the detention and incarceration of students. In 2007, the coalition founded FREE L.A. High School, a school aimed at providing disadvantaged youths with leadership skills and an effective alternative for youths who had or would have been incarcerated, punished, or pushed away from more traditional schools. The coalition has also fought for policy changes at the state level regarding the school-to-jail-track and has worked to train community members involved with schools on how to implement transformative justice and practices of positive intervention.3

Californians For Justice Californians for justice

Californian’s For Justice is a student-led statewide grassroots movement seeking to promote justice in the California education system and to improve the social, economic, and political circumstances surrounding it. In Fresno, Long Beach, San Jose, and Oakland, the movement has successfully pushed for implementation of and funding for Restorative Justice programs as opposed to funding for security and police personnel, as well as for increased local input and student voice in schools.4

Blocks Together Blocks Together

Blocks Together is a community-based group consisting of members from the West Humboldt Park neighborhood in Chicago that among other causes, fights for stopping the criminalization of youths. Its Blocks Together Youth Council opposes the school-to-prison pipeline and the highly punitive practices occurring in its community schools and instead advocates for Restorative Justice approaches to discipline. The group has had several achievements, including, among others, creating Know Your Rights workshops, getting transparency for school-based arrest rates, replacing Zero Tolerance language with Restorative Justice language in its schools’ discipline code, and decreasing the maximum number of days given for out-of-school suspensions.5

Power U Center for Social Change Power U Center Logo

Power U Center for Social Change is a membership-based grassroots organization out of the traditionally black community of Overtown in Miami, Florida, that campaigns for ending the school-to-prison pipeline and implementing Restorative Justice instead. The organization pressured the school board and Assistant Superintendent Nikoli Vitty into prohibiting the “Tardy Tank” and making principals find solutions that allow students to remain in the classroom, which in 2011 resulted in a decrease in suspension rates for that school year. Additionally, in 2012 the organization’s campaigning resulted in Restorative Justice trainings in 26 schools with students that were “persistently lowest-achieving.”6


CADRE is a parent-led grassroots organization that aims to empower parents to stop the school-to-prison pipeline existing in South LA. The organization demands that their children be treated with respect and dignity, that their children will not be pushed out from schools unnecessarily, and that parents will have a voice in the system and the ability to hold schools accountable. CADRE has had several accomplishments relating to halting the school-to-prison pipeline. For a full list of their accomplishments, click here.7

Padres Unidos and Padres Y Jovenes Unidos youth_rally_steps_crop

Padres Unidos, run by parents of color, and Padres Y Jovenes Unidos, run by students of color, are companion grassroots organizations that seek educational justice for youths in Colorado. The group has an “End the School to Jail Track Campaign”, which seeks to accomplish the following: fully implementing the Smart School Discipline Law, putting a stop to zero-tolerance policies and school discipline discrimination based on race, replacing such policies with restorative methods, and ending the school-to-jail track by ensuring that students are kept in the classroom instead of being pushed out to the juvenile justice system.8 In 2008, Padres Y Jovenes Unidos successfully campaigned to stop zero-tolerance policies in Denver Public Schools, and in 2013, the group successfully pushed for an Intergovernmental Agreement that held that students would no longer unnecessarily be referred to law enforcement, racial discrimination in disciplinary practices would be eradicated, and the role of law enforcement in schools would be decreased.9