SFUSD to expand training and services to meet the needs of students
March 9, 2016 (San Francisco) - The San Francisco Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution to provide more staff training, curriculum and services to meet the needs of students with incarcerated parents.
"We know that having a parent in jail or prison can stigmatize and traumatize a child. This can be exacerbated by a lack of understanding and sensitivity of what these kids need," said Board President Matt Haney, who co-authored the resolution with Vice President Shamann Walton. "Sadly, there are thousands of students in our school district that are separated from a parent because of incarceration. We as a school district want to stand in solidarity with these young people, and ensure that they feel understood and supported."
A community needs assessment conducted in 2011 by the city's Department of Children, Youth and Families, found that in 2010, nearly 18,000 young people in San Francisco had a parent who had spent time in either county jail or state prison.
"We worked with students whose parents are incarcerated so we could ensure their voice was reflected in this resolution," said Vice President Shamann Walton. "I hope that when students walk into our schools, we'll be more conscious of what they are going through."
The Center for Youth Wellness' Kaiser research study on childhood adverse experiences states that having a parent in jail or prison is one of the ten main traumas that can have a lasting effect on a child's developing brain and body.
According to other studies mentioned in the resolution, children with incarcerated parents may suffer from anxiety, shame or guilt. These feelings can lead to withdrawal from others, low self-esteem, a decline in school performance, or drug and alcohol abuse.
All SFUSD middle and high school counselors were trained last year by Project WHAT! (We're Here and Talking) to increase their understanding of how children are impacted by parental incarceration and the challenges they face in school. The resolution calls for continuation of this type of training for school staff on an annual basis and deeper support for schools with high concentrations of children with incarcerated parents.
To continue to better inform staff about the issues these students face, questions related to the experiences and needs of children with incarcerated parents will be added to SFUSD's Youth Behavior Risk Survey. All survey data will remain confidential and anonymous.
SFUSD will also continue to research and provide support in best practices for counselors, teachers and school staff to maintain communication with the parents of incarcerated children.
Page updated on 03/09/16