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Gwinnett County Students, Caregivers and Educators Demand Safety and Justice, not Criminalization in Open Letter

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. – Georgia Youth Justice Coalition and Gwinnett County students, caregivers, and educators, alongside partners Gwinnett SToPP, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Gwinnett County NAACP, released an open letter today demanding safety and justice in Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS).

Recently, Gwinnett County has been overtaken by conversations about how to address the violence in our school communities. Some community members have said that the recent violence is due to a disciplinary policy the GCPS Board implemented in August 2022 called Policy JCDI. Its purpose is to shift the district from zero-tolerance discipline policies to proven restorative practices that teach students accountability and the impact of their actions. This policy is a step in the right direction but has not been fully implemented across the county.

Violence in Gwinnett County’s schools has existed for years, perpetuated by zero-tolerance discipline policies and the subsequent criminalization of students. We need community instead of cages: policies that are restorative, empowering, and equitable.

Tonight at 6pm, a CommUNITY Townhall will be held where students will speak about their experiences and hopes for the future of safety and justice in GCPS. GYJC, Gwinnett SToPP, and Gwinnett NAACP are among the various Gwinnett County stakeholders sponsoring the event. The convening will occur in advance of school board testimony this Thursday in support of real restorative practices and fully funded equitable schools.

Restorative justice is a vital alternative to harmful punitive discipline. However, it is not a substitute for an equitably funded education system. We need both to ensure that Georgia’s students can thrive in and out of the classroom. After all, a fully funded and equitable education system is a safe one.