Responding to a continued rising level of murders and violence in Indianapolis, where 66% of the victims and 64% of the suspects were African-American males, as part of the Your Life Matters® effort, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard appointed Tanya Bell, President & CEO of Indiana Black Expo, Inc., and Jamal Smith, Executive Director of the Indiana Civil Rights Commission, to co-chair the Your Life Matters® Violence Prevention Task Force in April of this year. Recognizing that prison, violence and death are much too often the end results for disconnected young Black men and that prevention and intervention strategies are necessary to combat the root causes of disparities at all levels, the task force was formed to research and review programs and policies in Indianapolis that break down barriers to success and help Black males achieve their professional, educational and personal goals. Fourteen men and women, Black and white were chosen and along with twenty-three Task Force subcommittee members, a 102 page report was released to the public TODAY, November 18, 2014. Click the Link To Download the Full Report. Final 2014 Your Life Matters® Task Force Report Read the Your Life Matters® Task Force’s 44 Recommendations in seven broad areas.
- While educational matters are addressed in the Justice and Education sections of this report, it is critical to emphasize the importance of programs, initiatives and policies that enforce the engagement and retention of young Black boys in the preK-12 educational system.
- Creation of a repository of information and dissemination to stakeholders (media, government officials, etc.) for Your Life Matter’s (YLM) findings and similar studies to foster follow up, accountability and continued focus.
- Ensure that the YLM Initiative either resides in the Mayor’s office (current and future) and/or an outside organization that has the capacity and expertise to lead such effort. Public will must also be created to help implement the recommendations.
- Drive the development of successful cross sector community collaboration by prioritizing funding for programs that meet multiple needs of the target group or work collaboratively with other organizations with expertise in additional areas to address interrelated issues faced by this group.
- Encourage programs that are data rich and that provide program supporters with information about progress and successful behavior changes. Encourage funders to fund programs driven by measurable outcomes.
- Encourage funders to provide funds for organizational capacity to track and evaluate program data.
- Require programs to provide a focus and vision for the future which engages youth as leaders to the solution.
- Create an ambitious, regional, cross sector youth employment initiative, which provides multiple pathways to success. Indianapolis has an opportunity to make great strides forward in youth employment by creating an ambitious youth employment initiative. Keys to a successful youth employment initiative include, but are not limited to, the following recommendations:
- a. We recommend a cross sector partnership-based model, or collective impact initiative, as opposed to a top-down programmatic approach.
- b. The initiative must be comprehensive, and include development of life skills and work readiness skills; not just job skills.
- c. The initiative must allow for multiple pathways to success.
- Identify community youth employment programs that are already working in our community, and scale those efforts.
- Promote careers that are projected to be in high demand in Central Indiana, that do not require a four year college degree.
- Provide incentives for existing small business and social enterprise programs to hire youth.
- Advance initiatives to encourage corporate, government and other employees to mentor. Consider modeling other cities like Pittsburgh who have offered employees paid time to mentor.
- Support awareness and outreach initiatives that promote the value and need for mentoring.
- Integrate mentoring into holistic approaches to drive achievement and increase opportunity at school, home, and in the workforce.
- Develop strategic collaborations and explore new funding sources for mentoring programs.
- Encourage funders to fund capacity building efforts of mentoring organizations to align themselves with evidence-based standards of practice, including the Indiana Quality Mentoring Standards.
JUSTICE & RE-ENTRY
- Scale programs at all levels to afford opportunity for all incarcerated offenders to receive services and treatment.
- Work to support the Indianapolis/Marion County Council Re-Entry Policy Study Commission (IMCCRPSC) policy recommendations to reduce gaps in the current reentry service delivery model, including the enhancement and development of best-practice re-entry programs.
- Work to establish incentives to allow inmates the opportunity to work off fees they accrue as part of their sentencing.
- Work to create new and innovative ways to incentivize businesses to recruit, train, and/or hire ex-offenders.
- Work to develop and implement alternative programming in lieu of School to Police contact.
- Amend Ind. Code §35-50-8 to change requirement that juvenile courts must report to schools that children have a ‘true’ finding for a felony even if the conviction is a non-school related offense.
- Alternatives to out-of-school suspension must be put into place immediately.
- Require schools to provide additional information to the Indiana Department of Education when the code “other” is used on the state report.
- Work to develop a longitudinal outlook/study on the effects of Reactive Attachment Disorder & Brain Development and its impact on child to adult behavior.
- Emphasize and support early childhood educational opportunities, including pre-kindergarten, to facilitate students’ ability to develop research-based foundational skills and succeed academically.
- Modify Ind. Code 20-33-8-12 to specify that all public schools, including charter schools, must have a written discipline policy that addresses Positive Behavior and Intervention Systems (PBIS) and Restorative Justice to minimize the number of exclusionary discipline practices.
- Require additional information to be provided when the term “other” is used by schools completing the state report for suspensions and expulsions to minimize the number of exclusionary discipline practices.
- Prohibit out of school suspensions for attendance problems to minimize the number of exclusionary discipline practices.
- Modify the current Annual Percentage Rate (APR) requirement in Ind. Code 20-20-8-8 to include disaggregation of academic performance data and discipline data (by percentage of students) by race, grade, gender, F/R lunch status and eligibility for special education.
- Modify the current APR requirement in Ind. Code 20-20-8-8 to include the number of special education proceedings (by the percentage of students) in which a school has been found to have committed due process violation and require that this be published along with other school accountability information.
- Encourage approved teacher preparation programs to include coursework on Social Justice or embed the content into appropriate existing program coursework.
- Require the collection and reporting of data for number of requests for police dispatch and Arrests.
- Amend Ind. Code 20-31-5 to require schools to address the concepts of Response To Instruction (RTI) in their Strategic and Continuous School Improvement and Achievement Plans.
- Encourage teachers and administrators to complete some of their required PGP’s in areas related to PBIS and Restorative Discipline, culturally responsible instruction and classroom management, Civil Rights and Social Justice and RTI.
- Provide statutory right to alternative school for previously expelled students.
- Ensure access to rigorous instruction in alternative schools by clarifying those teachers in alternative programs fall within the definition of certificated employee under Ind. Code 20-28-11.5-4 for required teacher evaluations, and require that student data is included in school building and school corporation accountability.
- Ensure that students in in-school suspension continue to have access to rigorous instruction.
- Continue to allow parents options that enable parents to place their children in schools that align with their children’s learning styles and interests.
- Continue to support credit recovery schools for individuals over 18 without diplomas, where either industry certification or dual-credit opportunities are offered and emphasized.
- Encourage charter organizers to limit hiring of building-level administrators to those who have developed a background in special education law, student discipline, working with diverse learners, and cultural competency.
- Consider amending Ind. Code 20-24 to require charter schools to either participate in the USDA lunch and breakfast programs or provide an alternative lunch, so that all students are enabled to succeed in school.
- Health care organizations and social service agencies must work collectively and individually on effective program offerings, outreach and marketing strategies by:
- (1) providing and offering culturally sensitive health and social services along with information to Black males that will facilitate entry into health/social service programs;
- (2) marketing health care services in a manner that will attract African American males to utilize these services (most services via media seem to focus on females and/or seniors); (3) decreasing barriers which prevent Black males from accessing services (i.e. offer more evening hours at clinics/community centers to accommodate work hours);
- (4) designing and implementing youth violence prevention projects as part of culturally sensitive health programming; and
- (5) funding and supporting innovative interventions and messaging that will attract Black youth to health centers and social service organizations.
- Convene a meeting among health care providers (specifically, local Federally Qualified Health Center operators of school-based clinics) and social service agencies to establish framework for coordination of activities and services targeted for Black youth.
- Encourage local funders 1) to emphasize the importance of data collection, tracking and sharing and 2) to provide support to health care providers and social service agencies to gather, track and report data regarding youth who access public health services.
- Mandate that health care professionals receive training in the recognition of factors that contribute to youth violence including poverty, truancy, and mental health.
- Encourage Central Indiana Leadership Council, Indiana Minority Mental Health Professionals Association, local social services agencies and other health care providers to work collaboratively and focus on best practices to determine how best to provide health care and social services to underrepresented communities. Convening a meeting among the groups will be an initial step to achieving this goal