FREE LA High School
To enroll, check out the enrollment package and send it to us as soon as possible! Enrollment Packet
Escaping the School-to-Jail Track
For nearly all of us at the Youth Justice Coalition, our push into the juvenile injustice system began with our push out of school. On the street without a degree, youth find few options but the dangerous underground economy – at risk of death, injury, incarceration and deportation. Nationwide, 80 percent of the people in prison don’t have a high school diploma.
In the fall of 2007, the YJC founded FREE L.A. High School – (Fight for the Revolution that Will Educate and Empower Los Angeles) – for youth ages 16 to 24 to:
- Build stronger youth leadership and increase students’ core academic skills through a curriculum that trains young people in direct action organizing, campaign research, media and communications, activist arts, public policy development and advocacy, and transformative justice (to heal from violence and to prevent future violence).
- Support the youth development and educational needs of YJC members and other youth. FREE L.A. High School serves as an alternative to detention and incarceration for youth who face confinement, an educational site for youth who have been suspended or expelled from schools or entire districts, a school for youth returning home from lock-ups, and a more respectful and smaller program for youth who have left traditional schools discouraged.
Why FREE L.A. Is Needed – Educational Discrimination Against System Involved Youth
Once suspended, expelled, arrested and/or incarcerated, many youth face discrimination in re-enrolling in school – sometimes barred from entire districts. In addition, youth often come home from lock-ups without transcripts and IDs, the documents essential for enrollment. System staff offer too little support to help youth and their families find a school placement, while simultaneously threatening that without school, youth face violation and re-incarceration.
Few resources exist in schools or communities that can serve as alternatives to school suspension and expulsion, court, detention and incarceration.
Finally, system-involved youth are often treated differently in traditional schools – checked with hand-held metal detectors in class in front of their peers, pulled out of class or stopped in the halls for Probation checks, locker and back pack searches, pat downs and interrogations.
Often, youth who have been arrested or locked up are forced into underfunded and inferior Probation, continuation or alternative schools. Zero tolerance and other disciplinary policies are often even harsher in many of these schools and many youth are pushed out and/or violated back to lock-ups for truancy and other minor problems.
The Educational Program
FREE LA’s core academic program includes English/Language Arts with a focus on competency in literacy, Pre-Algebra and Algebra, and Life and Earth Science. But the heart of our program is training and direct, experiential learning in social justice organizing and movement building with standards-based instruction in systems of oppression and strategies for dismantling racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism/homophobia, adultism, and religious fundamentalism; Constitutional Law including street law, court monitoring and court (defense) support; participatory action research; civics (including government structures, public policy development, electoral politics and skills and community organizing); history (including movement building); economics (including units on slavery/human trafficking, globalization, food justice and immigration/migration); and life skills (including transformative justice and warrior circles to reduce violence, harm and conflict and heal from trauma).
COLLEGE PREP, NOT PRISON PREP
Student outcomes also include preparing youth for college and career. College trips and job fairs, mentorship from former students who have transitioned to jobs and college, and assistance in submitting financial aid and college applications, creating resumes and practicing job interviews are all incorporated into the school program. When students graduate from FREE LA High School, they also enroll with a Workforce Investment Act site for additional job training and placement. In addition, many of our students become LOBOS – Leading Our Brothers and sisters Out of the System – YJC youth organizers, who receive stipends to coordinate the Youth Justice Coalition’s organizing campaigns. For most people, LOBOS positions are their first jobs outside of the underground economy, as well as many people’s first opportunities to travel outside of Los Angeles.
The YJC is now working to expand FREE LA into sites where youth have no access to education, including county jail and re-entry homes for people returning home from prison.
FREE LA High School Meets All California State Requirements for Graduation:
FREE LA High School operates under the supervision of the YouthBuild Charter School founded to provide quality, continuation education to out-of-school youth – including those attending Job Corps and Conservation Corps – while meeting all state requirements for completion of state standards and passing the statewide (CAHSEE) high school exit exam.