Branched out in classrooms after an illuminating assembly, Crossroads students participated in peer-led discussions about topics ranging from racial profiling and diversity to gangs, homelessness and drug abuse. They spoke openly and thoughtfully, relaying personal stories while debating matters of social, cultural and political relevance.
It was all part of the second Juvenile Justice Forum Day at the Upper School, a multifaceted event featuring presentations and dialogue as students continued their yearlong examination of equity and justice issues. The first such forum day was held two years ago.
“It’s important, and it’s current,” says senior Tyler Fields, who is taking an ethics class this year. “Race, class and gender all go hand-in-hand. They are the backbone of what our society is.”
That message was reinforced by keynote speaker Jody David Armour, a USC law professor and renowned scholar in the fields of race and criminal justice.
Crossroads senior Isabel Fields spearheaded the coordination of many of the events, which also included a presentation by Tanzanian sisters who had been targeted for their albinism and a poetry art show earlier in March. Fellow seniors Kennedy Daniel, Samara Handelsman, Danielle Senturia, Max Rosenberg and Phoebe Lewin also held leadership roles.
Guests at the recent forum included Armour as well as Jaemmie Canas, an education and employment specialist at Safe Place for Youth, a drop-in homeless center in Venice; Janet Contreras, a mentor at Homeboy Industries; Sara Elander of Saving Innocence, a publicly supported organization that fights sex trafficking; student advocates Mona Lisa Fortenberry and Vitaly; and Rhiannon McGavin, the current Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles.
Following the presentation and panel discussions, student moderators facilitated dialogue in breakout sessions. The moderators—who had been trained by Upper School teachers Nika Cavat and Ken Rosen on how to handle disagreements in the group conversations—took notes that were later aggregated and analyzed.
Even when discussing the difficult subjects of prejudice and stereotypes, students felt compelled to share their views.
“It’s OK to be uncomfortable. It’s important for your development,” senior Ella Flood says. “And with the changing political climate, people don’t realize they may be marginalized now, because they’ve been privileged before.”