Hope United was PSU’s first school-based chapter, and Hope United’s first campaign–which included the largest student walkout in Providence history–will remain an inspiration for all our future organizing. Hope United continues to lead the way with powerful student advocacy, which you can check out here.
Hope United’s current campaign has been focused on reforming students’ role in school discipline. Hope United’s members are unhappy with the way punishment works at their school. Not only do students have no say in discipline issues, but the punishments our schools use–particularly suspensions and expulsions–do nothing to address the root causes of behavioral and discipline problems, while causing students to fall behind in their academic work.
After a great deal of research, Hope United created a proposal for a “Student Jury” at Hope. Under the proposal, misbehaving students and the teachers, administrators, or other students with whom they have had a problem go before a jury of their peers, where they have the opportunity to share their perspective on their misbehavior and listen to the other side’s account of the story. The Student Jury then has a chance to work with both parties to come up with a sanction that will actually call on the offending student to deal with the underlying cause of his or her misbehavior, as well as apologize to those members of the school community hurt by his or her action. In addition, Hope United’s Student Jury proposal gives students a means of bringing up complaints against teachers and administrators–something that is not possible under the current system.
Following a semester of advocacy, Hope United’s proposal won the approval of Hope’s principal, and is now successfully implementing the Student Jury.
Hope United has had a number of victories in the past two years. Our group originally formed to protest the Providence School Department’s plan to eliminate Hope’s successful block schedule, which had a number of attributes–like longer class periods and more common planning time–that were greatly favored by students and staff. Hope United met with district officials, protests, and eventually organized the largest student walkout in Providence history. We then went on to file a lawsuit that went all the way to the State Supreme Court. Although it took nearly two years, in the end students’ efforts paid off, as Hope reintroduced the block schedule in the fall of 2012.
In the fall of 2011, Hope United organized a campaign for a healthier, tastier school lunch, in which students successfully pressured Sodexo to implement a range of new cafeteria items, including the first full-service salad bar in any Providence high school.
And in the spring of 2012, Hope United ran a school bathroom campaign, in which students organized to get Aramark to repair the condition of Hope’s bathrooms.