YPP Network Description

The MacArthur Research Network on Youth and Participatory Politics (YPP) formed out of recognition that youth are critical to the future of democracy and that the digital age is introducing technological changes that are impacting how youth develop into informed, engaged, and effective actors.

  • Why We’re Stuck With Fake Game Ads: They Make Big Bucks

    by Noah Nelson

    If you’ve ever played a game on your phone — and really, who hasn’t — you’ve probably seen a fleet of ads. Ads in between rounds of a Match 3 game. Ads offered up as a way to unlock bonuses. Ads just hanging out at the bottom of the screen, getting in the way of your thumb.

    The weirdest part: they tend to be ads for other games. Other games that will, in turn, show you ads for yet more games.

    Things didn’t always used to be this way. Before games relied on the “freemium” model, people, you know, paid for them. But with even the most popular console and PC games — cough “Fortnite” cough — using a version of the freemium model, the days of paying up front for video games seem to be heading into the sunset.

    That’s because the business model of games like “Fortnite” makes sense: people pay Epic Games directly for all the in-game stuff to customize their game, and the game is so popular that big brands — like Marvel — use the game as a marketing platform.

    While every game maker wishes their latest release is the next “Fortnite”, the vast sea of games fall into the “Casual” and “Hyper-Casual” categories. (No, really. That’s what they are called in the business.) These are those often super-simple games that fill up Instagram feeds with their promotions if you so much as look at one of their ads too long. (Okay, not really. Maybe. Does anyone really understand algorithms?)

    This chart of In-App-Ads vs. In-App-Purchases in Casual games shows a significant shift in the last year. (Source: Appsflyer)

    According to a report by Appsflyer, more than half of the revenue of Casual games comes from in-game advertising. And which ads happen to be lucrative? Ads to get you to download other games. While a Casual game on Android might net an advertiser just $1.38, a Casino game on iOS can be worth over $4. That’s a lot of money for just one download, and that’s just in the United States. Advertisers make even more in a country like Japan.

    So the game maker’s game plan is simple: make a game that looks fun to play and has enough breaks in the action to show you ads for other games. They also make money selling in-app purchases, which are structured to “help” you beat the game. For the Hyper-Casual and Casual games, ads are beating out in-app purchases. Which means it pays off in those games to just keep you playing and watching ads, even if you’re not buying anything.

    Those who do spend money sometimes end up spending ridiculous amounts. 

    Of course, with these incentives, mobile game makers sometimes play fast and loose with the ads for those games.

    Dive into Reddit or any mobile-gaming forum of choice and you’ll find threads about how some ads are downright deceptive. You’ll see “gameplay” video that has nothing to do with the game itself.

    A HomeScapes ad, captured by YouTuber JoshGunner. Compare to the actual gameplay video below.

    Take the game “Homescapes,” which has an ad that makes the game look like a breezy home handyman game, often labeled with a banner that says something like “why is this game so hard”, even though it looks brain-numbingly easy. Yet that isn’t the game at all. “Homescapes” is a — rather successful — Match 3 game with a story progression.

    An actual gameplay video, made by MobileGamesDaily

    This gameplay ad situation has been around for years, with even ads on the Super Bowl — excuse, us — the Big Game, being called out for showing footage that looked nothing like the real game. Yet nothing happens.

    Nothing happens because people keep downloading games from game ads, and just enough people keep paying for in-game purchases to make it worthwhile for game makers to keep advertising. That some games are making more money on ads than purchases could mean the market is cannibalizing itself… but there are other categories of games where purchases still have the upper hand. And, of course, games at the top of the food chain that are more “ways of life” than they are pastimes — like “Fortnite,” which has its own mobile version.

    The odds of platform holders doing anything about fake ads are pretty low, as they have an economic incentive — a cut of the profits — when players do finally make a purchase. So if you want to stop seeing all these fake ads: you’re going to have to stop clicking on them.
    The post Why We’re Stuck With Fake Game Ads: They Make Big Bucks appeared first on YR Media.

  • Elujay Showcases Self-Reflection with “Adojio”

    by Tanea

    We all love an artist that can pour their heart and soul into their music. We also love an artist that can transcend music and make you feel what they’re feeling. What’s great about Elujay is that he effortlessly does both. He’s a rare find in today’s music landscape, which is filled with artists looking for quick fame and mass popularity. As I listened to Elujay’s discography, I could tell that music wasn’t just a promising profession to him, but instead an honest dream read out loud for us to experience. When someone’s craft is that ingrained into their essence, a genuine artist is born.

    His most recent project, “Adojio,” give us access to Elujay’s own self-reflection, as well as his sincere experiences with life and love. I had the chance to sit down with him and discuss what personal perception looks like and what music means to him.  

    SC: What did your creative journey first look like? How did it begin to transform into making music?

    E: Since I was a child, I’ve always been very creative. Whether it was painting or making movies — like little shorts on a VHS camera with my friends and uploading it to YouTube. And then I got this beat making program from my friend. I don’t know, I’ve always been inspired to make music because I listen to a lot of music, I listen to a lot of different genres. And then it just kind of transpired into making and producing music, and creating something from nothing.

    SC: So you say you listen to all different genres. Do you think you have one that impacted you the most?

    E: Probably neo-soul and hip-hop. It’s like a mixture of both.

    SC: You frequently talk about making and supporting music that is honest. What makes a song honest?

    E: I think it’s a direct reflection of the way a person perceives life, or their dreams or reality. I really don’t think that it has to be like, “what I ate yesterday was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich so I’m gonna write about eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.” Like it can just be whatever. If you have a dream about something and you see yourself in a different light or you had this epiphany about something, that’s your perception and no one can tell you that it’s wrong.

    SC: How do you channel your own truth into your music?

    E: Well my intention is purely genuine. I don’t want to make it for any type of monetary amount or to please anybody. It’s just like, I’m making it for myself. I find the meaning in things that I can place replay value on.

    SC: Although you’re a hip-hop artist, I noticed you incorporate soul into your songs and it comes off quite organic. Was that a natural path for you?

    E: It was natural because that’s just what my family played all the time around me. So it’s kind of hard to shake Stevie Wonder off, and Earth, Wind & Fire and stuff like that, out of my bones. Like this was the stuff I kind of grew up on.

    SC: What is your process for creating a song?

    E: My process for creating a song starts with a chord progression and then a melody. It’s usually very minimal stuff, maybe some drums and a chord progression. And then a melody just kind of comes together. I just get other people to come in to help me with the other instrumentation. Whether it needs more guitar, more piano… stuff I can’t really figure out on my own. I do like to collaborate with a lot of musicians. Musicians are like the golden piece in a lot of my music. It’s just like the very backbone of the songs and how they’re created. Because I’ll usually scratch stuff from the initial chord progression and I’ll have somebody expand on it or take it in a different direction.

    SC: Does an idea for a song or a melody have to come naturally to you or do you try to sit down like, “Okay, I’m gonna write a song and it’s gonna be about this.”

    E: I kind of just let it happen. If I think of an idea, I’ll just kind of lay it down and it’ll just happen.

    SC: When making a song, is there ever a particular feeling that you’re seeking to emote?

    E: Like a feel good type of feeling.  I just want to make people feel good about themselves. Whether you’re cruising in the whip and you wanna turn on some jams to make you just get a little more in the mood, or smile a bit. That’s what I’m all about.

    SC: How does your new album, “Adojio,” differ from your previous project “Jentrify?”

    E: This album has a lot more singing on it. I guess there’s more jazzy production — there’s a lot more harmonizing. It’s really good compared to “Jentrify.” I really think it was a level up for me. All the records have a story behind them so I think that’s pretty cool.

    SC: Is there an observable evolution listeners can notice?

    E: Yeah. I mean, it all comes down to their perception. They can see it as evolving or demoting. I think a lot of people will see it as an evolution though, because it’s more cohesive, and I feel like I’m more confident in my voice.

    SC: What inspired the project? Is there a meaning behind the name?

    E: What inspired the project was a lot of Frank Ocean, Cosmo Pyke, The Internet, Björk — they all were a  big influence on that. Stevie Wonder, Pharrell, any R&B… those are like the main influences. The meaning behind the album name is it translates to slow-tempo in Italian. But it’s spelled differently — it has a “J” instead of a “G.” It also has another meaning, like a slow progression. To me it represents a slow progression to our goals, but like done successfully and actively.

    SC: Your song “Blu” touches upon contemplating love. What was the inspiration behind that song?

    E: I started writing it and it just kind of wrote itself. There wasn’t really a lot of thinking behind it. I was thinking about how it would feel hearing a perspective of loving someone but not knowing if you really love them. That was the initial feeling it gave me.

    SC: You’re an Oakland native. How has the Bay Area shaped your artistry?

    E: It gave me a sense of wisdom. I got to see all walks of life, be inspired by different people that I’d see in the street. Being in such a diverse place can give you that feeling.

    SC: What do you hope people take away from your music?

    E: I hope that people can feel good about themselves and be like, “You know, this guy makes some cool tunes.” But I don’t really want to dwell on what people should take away from it, I just feel like they should live with the music. I don’t really think too deeply about it.

    SC: What is one piece of  advice you would give to new artists?

    E: Just keep your time in the music and don’t let too many people in on your ideas, unless they’re helpful or creative. It can be very troublesome when you have people who are aren’t necessarily involved in seeing your music grow, but they just want to be a part of the moment. I think the best thing you can do is just make the best art possible and don’t worry about the outcome.
    The post Elujay Showcases Self-Reflection with “Adojio” appeared first on YR Media.

  • Opinion: We’re Finally Talking About Wealth and Legacy

    by Shawn Wen

    When I first arrived at Harvard three and a half years ago, I was surprised by the sheer wealth of my peers and the unexpected number of legacy students I met. During the first week of my freshman year, my roommate bought a flat-screen TV for the common room and a $300 gaming chair. He barely used both. A friend from class casually mentioned to me that both of his parents had also attended Harvard. I later learned his older sister graduated five years ago and his twin brother was currently attending with him.

    Harvard was a foreign world for me. As Korean immigrants settled in a Texas suburb, my parents had idolized the Ivy League as the ultimate realization of their American dream, so I learned to think the same. To achieve this dream, my parents labored at their small doughnut shop and during the summers, I followed my dad to his second job cleaning a local recreation center. I was lucky to have attended a well-resourced public high school folded within a middle-class suburb, and to be born into a stable-income family.

    Regardless, for a college that touts its diversity, I was shocked that so many of my classmates came from rich, well-connected families and were part of a legacy in institutions like Harvard. Meeting peers whose parents were professors at elite colleges, doctors with Wikipedia pages, or leaders of multi-million dollar companies reminded me of my working-class roots.

    Over the last few years, Harvard has been embroiled in a contentious affirmative action lawsuit which remains unsettled. The school has been under investigation for its alleged discrimination against Asian-American applicants. Meanwhile, the clear advantages which favor wealthy students and white legacies remain unquestioned.

    The recent college admissions scandal revealed the extent to which parents and prospective students will cheat the admissions system for entrance into an elite university. Thirty-three parents were charged after bribing their children into colleges like Stanford, Yale, and Georgetown.

    From my time at Harvard, I was not surprised. Wealthy families have long manipulated college admissions in ways that are equally dubious but within the bounds of law. They pay exorbitant fees for college consultants, or have personal statements written by outside companies. It is not unimaginable to consider the ubiquity of these practices. After all, the median income of a Harvard student triples the national average, according to Harvard’s student newspaper The Crimson.

    This elitist, easily-rigged college admissions process produces a predominantly wealthy and white campus: 42% of white students from Harvard’s class of 2021 come from families making over $250,000 per year. Not to mention, applicants who benefit from Harvard’s legacy preferences, which favor white and wealthy applicants, are five times more likely to get admitted compared to non-legacy students.

    My black and brown peers fend off derisive comments accusing them that their acceptances into Harvard were contingent on their race, having stolen spots from more “qualified” applicants. Yet, they have time and again demonstrated excellence despite severely underfunded schools for black and Latinx students and other institutional barriers which have limited opportunities for people of color. White families, on the other hand, are literally buying their way into college and perpetuating the cesspool of white mediocrity at elite institutions. Truly, who is stealing spots away from “deserving” applicants?

    Over the past year, I have struggled with the conversations sparked by the Students for Fair Admissions lawsuit against Harvard. A friend of the plaintiff, Michael Wang, has been outspoken about the discrimination he had felt as an Asian-American college applicant. While he now claims he does not want affirmative action abolished, Mr. Wang remains complicit in bolstering a toxic narrative which argues that a race-neutral admissions process is the only solution to achieving educational equity for Asian-Americans.

    But I contend that affirmative action has not harmed me. When I applied to Harvard, I wrote a personal essay about my Korean heritage and its intersection with queerness. My identity as a Korean-American overlaps with all aspects of my life and it felt disingenuous to write solely about my sexuality. Affirmative action allowed me to present an application that felt true to my identities beyond just one facet, acknowledging the role my Korean identity played in my experiences.

    For this exact reason, we need an admissions policy that can reckon with how race plays a role in all aspects of our lives and the opportunities laid out for us. Wealth and legacy created a system meant to exclude people of color and working-class and low-income families. The college scandal has made that clear. Affirmative action seeks to deconstruct this system into one that is more equitable.  

    The Students for Fair Admissions lawsuit denies the sociopolitical, racial, and economic bonds that connect Asian-Americans with all communities of color. The lawsuit threatens to decrease educational gaps for black, Latinx, Native American and yes — even Asian-American — students.

    Meanwhile, the real source of inequitable college admission processes has been bitterly exposed for a whole nation to behold, one that has been festering underneath a facade of meritocracy for decades.  In light of the attacks on affirmative action, surely the irony rings clear: wealthy parents are literally buying their children into college in both legal and illegal ways.

    And yet, for all of their arguments about fairness and equity, Students for For Fair Admissions and other critics of affirmative action are strangely silent. Where is their anger now?
    The post Opinion: We’re Finally Talking About Wealth and Legacy appeared first on YR Media.

  • Bay Word of the Day: On My Mama

    by Maya

    The post Bay Word of the Day: On My Mama appeared first on YR Media.

  • Opinion: The New Zealand Massacre and Everyday Islamophobia

    by LaToya Tooles

    When I learned of last week’s attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, it struck me that the gunman chose a Friday. For Muslims around the world, Friday is the best day of the week because it’s the most blessed day of the week. Friday is when Jummah occurs: 30 minutes of meditation, free from your phone and surrounded by community. I grew up going to an Islamic school that had Jummah every Friday, and now that I’m in college, I miss it.

    Jummah prayer is when a mosque is the most packed. So I have to believe this terrorist knew what he was doing when he chose a Friday for his massacre.

    Like other Muslims I’ve spoken to since the terrorist attack, my immediate reaction was fear and disgust. I called one of my friends to check up on her, and she said the scary part is that this can happen at any mosque because all mosques are the same. They are open to anybody and everybody. So we are afraid. But no, we are not shocked. Because we know that extreme moments of terror are an extension of the everyday Islamophobia Muslims worldwide experience. We know that this is what Islamophobia can do.

    The “thoughts and prayers” that are being sent to Muslim communities are a kind gesture, but they aren’t enough. Instead, you can offer your outrage. And not just after 50 of my fellow Muslims, who had full lives to look forward to, are killed, but all the time. Stop waiting until our lives are taken.

    Be action-oriented when you see Islamophobia used as entertainment.

    I think we can all agree that shows like “24” or “Elite” using Muslim people as their go-to bad guy or oppressed woman can create distorted views of Islam. But even seemingly benign moments, like Cardi B’s music video for “Bodak Yellow,” are othering and harmful. You can still love Cardi B and condemn that type of work. You can even love Disney and call them out for “Aladdin.”

    Call out leaders who create policies that promote Islamophobia.

    When politicians and commentators call for Muslims to be surveilled or proclaim that Islam promotes extremism, they dehumanize billions of people, and we are seeing the consequences. As Australian broadcaster Waleed Aly noted in his moving address following the attack in Christchurch, many of the same politicians sending thoughts and prayers have promoted anti-Muslim rhetoric sometime within their careers.

    The same politicians that have made a career out of Islamophobia are the ones sending condolences today.— Mustafa (@droop206) March 16, 2019

    In the U.S., President Trump offered condolences after the attack, but in reference to immigrants he also used the exact same word as the gunman. “Today the terrorist has quoted the most powerful man in the world: President Trump,” stated the leader of the Council on American–Islamic Relations Nihad Awad. Perhaps it is a call for reflection when a white extremist’s source of inspiration comes from the President of the United States. And just a few weeks ago in America, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar received death threats and was blamed for 9/11 due to her faith. Where was the outrage then? 

    'Mr. Trump, your words matter. Your policies matter.' — The leader of Muslim American organization @CAIRNational says hate speech from world leaders is directly related to Islamophobic attacks like in New Zealand pic.twitter.com/tqrItM2eJR— NowThis (@nowthisnews) March 16, 2019

    Make a point to eliminate Islamophobia in our everyday lives.  

    Instead of praying for Muslims, report that Islamophobic tweet you scrolled past. Call out your family members or coworkers for making anti-Muslim jokes or pressuring Muslims to do something that goes against their faith. When you hear about a school principal who advises parents not to have their kids fast for Ramadan, your response should be just as outraged as if Christian parents were told their kids couldn’t pray before lunch in the cafeteria. 

    And even if you can’t think of a specific action, you can just be mad. We must not be complacent with hate if we want to create change.

    The Friday after the attack, I went to prayer. Jummah is one of the only moments Muslims like me don’t feel like the other. And yet all I could think about was that my mosque could be next. All our doors are open.

    I get that it makes people uncomfortable to speak up about things like this. But you should not be comfortable in the face of my discrimination.

    The lives we lost last week will always be in our hearts. We will always attend Jummah to honor their lives, but just as the mosque open for all, it’s time for society to be open to us.

    There's a Muslim BAN currently in effect in THIS country. Everyone here can shove their "thoughts and prayers"— Prison Culture Returns (@prisonculture) March 15, 2019

    The post Opinion: The New Zealand Massacre and Everyday Islamophobia appeared first on YR Media.

  • Have What It Takes to Be a U.S. Citizen? Take Our Quiz

    by Radames

    With all eyes on U.S. borders and immigration debates polarizing the nation, a new study shows that most Americans lack basic knowledge of U.S. history. Earlier this year, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation gave 41,000 Americans a U.S. history exam. In only one state, Vermont, did the majority of residents even pass.

    We expect immigrants seeking U.S. citizenship to study up on 100 civics questions, but do you even know the answers? Are these even the right questions? Tweet us @itsYRmedia with different questions you’d want on the test. In the meantime, see how you do on our quiz, which draws from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ naturalization test.

    Photos by: Unsplash, Wikimedia Commons and Library of Congress.

    The post Have What It Takes to Be a U.S. Citizen? Take Our Quiz appeared first on YR Media.

  • I Turned to Self-Help Books to Deal with My Depression

    by Ajani

    This past year, I noticed a big increase in my self-confidence. And I owe a lot of that to the books I read.

    When my doctor told me I had depressive symptoms, she recommended that I see a therapist. The few times I talked about my depression to family and friends made me uncomfortable. So the thought of bringing up my deepest, darkest thoughts to a stranger terrified me.

    I tried to find an alternative solution. It started with a spontaneous trip to the library where I picked out a few self-help books with appealing covers. I wasn’t expecting much.

    But, to my surprise, I learned a new strategy to cope with my depression from each book, and saw my mental health significantly improve. These tips were simple, like taking breaks from social media or writing down three things that made me happy daily.

    Self-help books became my silent therapist. There were no fears of judgment — just meaningful advice. Seeing a therapist is an important option for many people, and I haven’t written it off. But for the time being, self-help books have been transformative for me as a way to better my mental health.
    The post I Turned to Self-Help Books to Deal with My Depression appeared first on YR Media.

  • Playlist: LA Sun

    by Christian

    It’s a little cliché but after spending the last month of my trip to New York getting rained on/freezing to death in 30-degree weather, I think I deserve a chance to say, “Thank the lord,” for the Los Angeles sun. Here’s a collection of some good-feeling music to enjoy on a sunny day.

    Mick Jenkins – Gwendolynn’s Apprehension

    This new Mick Jenkins album is so ridiculously good that I don’t think a day has passed where I’ve stopped slapping it.

    Spote Breeze – Stubborn Optimist

    This track was actually produced by a homie and I think the song title captures my recent vibes this month. S/O Spote Breeze.

    Bakar – Dracula

    Bakar threw me for a loop with this track when I first heard it but it definitely grew on me and it’s just a fun upbeat song!

    LA Priest – Night Train

    This track by LA Priest is smooth like a freshly shaved shin.

    Little Dragon – Lover Chanting

    This is definitely one of the greatest bands ever and they consistently release good music so bless up Little Dragon.

    Larry June – Sausalito

    There’s not many rappers that consistently make you smile with hilarious lyrics while keeping a tame, real vibe, but Larry June brings that to the table.

    Anderson .Paak & Kendrick Lamar – Tints

    Kendrick Lamar & Anderson .Paak on a track is a recipe for greatness and the song lived up to its lineup.

    Kelela – Waitin (KAYTRANADA Remix)

    Kelela is one of the most bomb artists to exist and then you mix that with one of the most bomb artists to ever exist ( KAYTRANADA ) and you get this masterpiece.

    Melody’s Echo Chamber – You Won’t Be Missing That Part of Me

    She’s dope and Kevin Parker actually helped produce the album so not much to not like here. Really psychedelic vibes.

    Frank Ocean – Lost

    I haven’t met one person who dislikes Frank Ocean because I think it’s actually physically impossible to not love him.

    I hope this list brings you joy with some good songs to relax in the sun too, take care out there and always treat yourself right with productivity and rewarding goals.
    The post Playlist: LA Sun appeared first on YR Media.

  • Students Worldwide Skipped School to Fight Climate Change

    by Lissa Soep

    Students around the world stepped away from their desks and onto the streets Friday to protest lack of government action to fight climate change.

    They demanded immediate change.

    Greenhouse gas emissions are expected to reach devastating levels by the year 2040. United Nations scientists predict widespread disaster including floods, droughts, wildfires and food shortages, according to a 2018 report.

    Forty-two percent of the world population is under the age of 25.

    “Adults keep saying: ‘We owe it to the young people to give them hope.’ But I don’t want your hope,” activist Greta Thunberg told world leaders in Davos. “I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel, everyday. And then I want you to act.”

    The 16-year-old Swedish student has been skipping school every Friday to protest outside of her parliament. On Thursday, Thunberg was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

    Inspired by Thunberg’s actions, international student strikes have been ongoing since August 2018, tagged #FridaysforFuture. While some school administrators and politicians have called for students to be punished, the strikes prevail — and grow.

    Friday’s #ClimateStrike included participants from well over 100 countries, making it one of the biggest environmental protests in history.

    The demands of the strikers varied depending on where they were organizing around the world, but included aggressive cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, a halt in fossil fuel infrastructure projects and 100 percent renewable energy by 2030. In some places, lowering the voting age was also on the list.

    In the United States, over 100 strikes were planned thanks to the organizing efforts of Alexandria Villasenor, 13, Haven Coleman, 12, and Isra Hirsi, 16, — three activists who have staged sit-ins, fundraised online and launched the Youth Climate Strike US (YCSUS).

    “We don’t have enough time to wait until we’re in positions of power,” Villasenor said in Elle. “We have to force the world leaders right now to start taking action.”

    Find a map of U.S. strikes on the YCSUS site. International strikes are here.
    The post Students Worldwide Skipped School to Fight Climate Change appeared first on YR Media.

  • After Historic Election, School Official Takes on District Dogged by Sexual Misconduct

    by Shawn Wen

    Gwinnett County School board member Everton Blair is calling for a review of student discipline policies in response to YR Media’s year-long investigation into his metro-Atlanta school district’s handling of K-12 student sexual misconduct.

    Gwinnett County Public Schools is a microcosm of the nation, as schools set out to balance the rights of sexual harassment victims with growing concerns about criminalizing children and disproportionately punishing black and brown boys. If they get the balance wrong, districts face federal investigation by the Office of Civil Rights.  

    Blair, who was elected at 26, is the youngest and first black board member of Gwinnett County Public Schools, one of the most diverse counties in the southeast. He ran for office as a current educator and a former student of Gwinnett. YR Media spoke with Blair about his historic win and the changes he intends to make.

    This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

    Shawn Wen: Data shows that Gwinnett is disciplining students for sexual misconduct at twice the rate of Cobb County [the second-largest district in Georgia], with one boy who is as young as 5 years old being suspended for it. What do you make of such a high rate?

    Metro-Atlanta School Districts: Total Sex-related Offenses per 1,000 students
    2016-2017 School Year

    SOURCE: Georgia Department of Education

    Everton Blair: I think all of our student disciplining needs to be addressed. And when I see reports about a higher incidence of discipline in certain counties versus others, my first thought is, how [do] we respond, what interventions we’re putting in place, or what preventative measures [do] we have? I do think that we have to figure out whether [there’s] a failure to adequately educate our students on what appropriate sexual behavior is.

    SW: Our reporting also found that black boys were disproportionately disciplined for sexual misconduct. What did you make of this disparity and what is the district going to do to address it?

    Metro-Atlanta Students Disciplined for Sex-Related Offenses:Broken down by Race and Ethnicity
    2016-2017 School Year

    SOURCE: Georgia Department of Education

    EB: I don’t know. I think we have to take a deeper look at that. We really try to deepen our engagement with mentors, and with teachers, and staff in the building to make sure that our students, or especially our black boys, feel like they have a role model and an advocate in our buildings. So they’re not lashing out or acting out in a way that’s irresponsible or not conducive to the learning environment. I take that on as a personal matter, as a black male educator, because I do want our black boys to be supported.

    SW: What sort of conversations have you had about sexual harassment or sexual assault in schools?

    EB: I haven’t had very many. But I have heard of very specific instances at previous board meetings, before I was serving in an official capacity, where students were commenting on the failure of our sexual education. Some victims of sexual violence have commented on our failure to really serve our students well. They did not receive an education that prevented some of the behavior from happening.

    I think we can do more, really stressing consent: the definition of consent, as well as what affirmative consent means, so that people are much more safe, especially when they leave our K-12 environments and go on to college and career.

    SW: What’s the board doing in response to that feedback?

    EB: I think I am the person who is the most vocal around the need to look at our sex education curriculum and make a change. I can’t comment for other people.

    SW: Do you face resistance from other board members?

    EB: When I bring it up, people tend to agree around the need to have conversations about consent. We have to either supplement to our current curriculum or [find] a replacement of it altogether. And I think that I’m optimistic that we’ll find some traction in the coming months around it.

    SW: Some of these larger issues we’re discussing — sexual misconduct, racially disproportionate punishment, the very limited sex ed — did you recognize these while you were a student?

    EB: Definitely as it related to the sex ed curriculum. Abstinence-only sex ed is just not going to cover the full arsenal of what kids need to know in order to make responsible decisions. At that point, there was still that ridiculous chewing gum analogy that was shared in my middle or high school. [Ed. note: A popular analogy in many abstinence-only curricula compares losing one’s virginity to becoming a chewed up piece of gum.]

    SW: I’m curious if the school board has been receptive to your approach.

    EB: They don’t have a choice.

    SW: Right. You’re an elected official.

    EB: Fortunately right. I’m from the community. When I speak, I try to speak with a level of authority limited to either my lived experience, or research. And so you can’t deny my lived experience as my lived experience. And you also can’t deny data is data.

    SW: When I asked the superintendent about racially disproportionate punishment, he basically said, “We are punishing students in accordance to the misconduct committed.” I wonder if you have any response to his response?

    [Ed. note: Gwinnett Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks wrote to YR Media, “Student discipline for misbehavior of any nature is administrated according to our discipline code and because of the act of misbehavior and not gender, race, or ethnicity.”] ‘

    EB: No. I don’t have any response to what they’ve said.

    When somebody says, almost as a justification, that “we’re applying the law equally across all groups,” or something along those lines, I’m thinking, if there are kids under our watch who need more, why are we not providing it? And if we’re able to also see a huge body of research that shows that kids across the board are committing some of the same offenses, but certain groups of kids are being disproportionately suspended or disciplined for the same behavior at a higher rate or more severely than others, then we need to address that.

    And if that’s a conversation on unconscious bias, then we should have that. If that’s a conversation just around student intervention I think that should happen too and it should be student led. This is work that our kids would want to lead.

    How does Gwinnett get to 1,087 students disciplined for sexual misconduct? Here’s a school-by-school breakdown of sex-related offenses Gwinnett County Public Schools in the 2016-2017 school year.

    Source: pdf

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