Interview: Ways to Include and Engage the Men in Your PTA

Byline: LaQuisha Anderson, Family Engagement Commissioner

The California State PTA Family Engagement Commission sat down with PTA dad Murali Vasudevan to discuss his experience serving in the PTA at his daughter’s schools, ABC Council PTA, and Thirty-Third District PTA for many years. Watch the video interview to learn more about Vasudevan’s experience and find ways you can include, create engagement, and involve men in your PTA. 

Do you have a great Family Engagement story, practice, or idea for building parent and caregiver involvement? Please share it with us and you may be featured on our social media.

Six Ways to Fix the “Everyone Welcome Sign” on Your PTA

By: California State PTA Leadership Services and Family Engagement Commissions

You’re in the PTA to do good things for all kids and families. You might think your PTA is a place where everyone feels welcome, but others could see it differently because of popular media stereotypes, hearsay, or even personal experiences. These steps can improve your welcoming and inclusive environment and might even grow your PTA and attract some more great volunteers. 

  1. Create a welcoming committee

Jennifer, a kindergarten mom, goes to a PTA meeting for the first time. No one greets her, and the officers do not acknowledge her. When the events chair gives a report, she uses acronyms and makes references to activities Jennifer has never heard of.

Why people might feel excluded: Jennifer was interested in the PTA, but at the meeting, she didn’t know who the members were or what they were talking about. Not only did she feel like an outsider; she also felt like she didn’t know how to contribute.

The way to fix it:  Form a welcome committee or assign an officer to greet newcomers at each meeting. Wear name tags. Avoid using acronyms or jargon. Follow up with new attendees after the meeting to answer any questions they have about the PTA or learn whether they have any ideas about how they can help. Welcoming everyone is the first step in the PTA Family-School Partnership toolkit – find more info on this research based family engagement resource on the California State PTA website.

  1. Recruit everyone

Several seasoned PTA volunteers are setting up at the annual back-to-school night. As they unload decorations, they walk by the playground where a new parent at the school is playing with her kids. They invite her to the event but don’t introduce themselves or ask whether she’s interested in getting involved.

Why people might feel excluded: This new parent might have been looking for ways to get involved and meet new people. By walking by and only asking her to participate without telling her what they were doing, the PTA volunteers missed an opportunity to engage and invite a new volunteer into the group.

The way to fix it: It’s not always easy to know how your PTA is perceived. But consider every meeting with a new family an opportunity to talk about what your PTA does and to invite them to get involved. Remember to ask again later, too! If someone isn’t available the first time, they may be more receptive to a repeat request for help. Find recruitment ideas, tips, templates, and resources on the California State PTA website from the state Membership Services Commission!

  1. Be available

The PTA doesn’t communicate well with parents and there’s no list of officers on a bulletin board, website, or in a newsletter. Parents don’t know who runs the PTA or how to contact them.

Why people might feel excluded: Being unavailable makes the group feel exclusive as if members don’t want to share the information because they aren’t looking for new help. If it’s too hard to get “in,” some people will just stop trying. When you give up the chance to tell your own story, folks can make their own. Remember the adage that negative news travels twice as fast as positive.

The way to fix it: Find a volunteer who can keep your website updated regularly with every officer’s contact information. Link your PTA information to the school website, and supply the school administrators with the most updated list of officers, including email addresses and phone numbers, as parents will often call the school looking for information. The California State PTA Communications Commission has monthly meetings to support local leaders in their communication efforts – register now!

  1. Always follow up

The PTA asks parents to fill out a volunteer interest survey, but no one follows up with them. Parents who were willing to give their time assume that the PTA doesn’t need or want their help after all.

Why people might feel excluded: If someone offers to help and isn’t contacted, it feels like rejection. Rejection is key to the clique culture and breeds resentment and negativity. It can stunt further involvement by the potential volunteer (and their wider group of friends).

The way to fix it: Be diligent in following up after asking for input. Whether it’s on a fundraising survey or volunteer sign-up form, remember that parents took the time to respond to your request. You’ll be asking the same group for their help again in the future (maybe even next week!) and you’ll want their participation again. Try an online volunteer sign-up and management system; it makes following up much easier. It’s also okay to say sorry if you’ve dropped the ball but make a commitment to do better next time.

  1. Include New People in Decision Making and Leadership Roles

When the same people have been officers for years, newcomers feel like they’re not wanted or shouldn’t bother because they don’t have enough experience to take on a leadership role. When you do need to fill a volunteer position, you offer it to a friend.

Why people might feel excluded: The doors appear to be closed to new volunteers and their fresh ideas—which they might take to another organization if you don’t offer them an opportunity to get involved with your group. By not sharing information about volunteer openings, people who might want the job feel excluded.

The way to fix it: Set up a succession plan for the major roles on your PTA board. Use committees to allow volunteers to “ease into” learning about your PTA’s work and to provide places for them to engage between elections. A new leader might be interested in being an officer, so keep that in mind. Keep new volunteers informed by providing job descriptions including the time involved, so parents can choose what fits their schedules and interests best. Also, include a timeline of when new board and committee chairpeople are selected. You can find information on PTA elections, job descriptions and so much more in the “Run Your PTA” section of the California State PTA website from the Leadership Services Commission.

  1. Build diversity

You’ve held the same event for years, run by the same tight-knit group of people, and attendance has been dropping. A whole group of families have never partici­pated because they don’t feel like the event includes them.

Why people might feel excluded: When different voices aren’t included in the planning and execution of an event, the ideas get stale and only appeal to a select few. For example, Doughnuts with Dads excludes any student whose father isn’t involved in the family or one who has two Moms.

The way to fix it: Invite idea-sharing and feedback from people outside the usual circle of leaders and volunteers. Take notice of parents who don’t usually get involved; talk with them and personally invite them to share opinions and join committees. Make sure you have a wide representation on your board and in your committees including parents with kids in different grades, in different activities and caregivers who might not be parents or speak different languages. And don’t be satisfied with contacting just one member of a new group; no one wants to be a token, so invite three or four new people at minimum. And ask them to invite some friends. You can find information on how to build a more diverse, equitable & inclusive PTA on National PTA’s website. 


Getting involved in your school’s PTA should be open to everyone and feel welcome and inclusive.  It shouldn’t bring back memories of cliques, popu­lar kids, or being left out. Here’s your to-do list when you are trying to break the per­ception (or reality) of a PTA that doesn’t feel welcoming to everyone:

  • Remind officers to socialize outside of their “officer” circle at meetings and school events.
  • Have a greeter at the door of your events to make newcomers feel welcome.
  • Use name tags so that newcomers will know better who’s who.
  •  Always explain business items and acronyms even if they’re held over from previous meetings. Don’t presume everybody knows.
  • Make people raise their hands and be recognized before they speak. Otherwise, meetings can devolve into chitchat, almost always among the “regulars.”
  • Set up simple ways for everyone to get involved. Make it easy for volunteers to see what type of help is needed, along with specific time slots.
  • Include current PTA leader contact information and planned events on the about page of your website and social media accounts. Consider the addition of brief job descriptions for officers and committee chairs.

Membership Monday: Spread Warmth and Grow Your PTA

by Membership Services Commission


Today is National Hot Chocolate Day! Spreading a little warmth and joy can help you build community and grow your PTA membership. Offering a cup of warm cocoa or coffee/tea can be a great conversation starter as you continue to meet new parents (parents with students in different grades and staff). Set up a membership table if you can and serve coffee or hot chocolate as a way to remind your parents and students of the support and work your PTA is doing on their behalf. Try a virtual coffee or cocoa chat if the in-person table is not possible at your school.

Throughout February, there are many celebrations that can give you ideas on how to connect to your community. Every time you have an event you can use it to encourage membership! 

For more ideas, be sure to read Ways to Increase PTA Membership on the California State PTA website.

February Can Be A Membership Cultural Celebration

Connecting to your community is essential to increase membership in PTA and will help your PTA  recruit members in a way that is inclusive of all of our families and students. February is a time to celebrate Lunar New Year, African American Heritage Month, and Black History Month. See what your school and community are doing and sponsor or plan events to support these causes. In the process, your PTA can also build educational awareness and learning around these cultural celebrations.

Boost Membership With Healthy Lifestyle Awareness

February is also National Children’s Dental Health Month, National Bake for Family Fun Month, and National Snack Food Month. Remind your membership that healthy and active lifestyles are a part of PTA values and give them ideas of what they can do as classes, a PTA, or a community whether in person or virtual. Encourage families to be diligent about dental health for their children and find ways to do easy baking ideas that bring the family together to do constructive and team building activities. Virtual cooking (baking) classes have been a big hit in some communities.

Celebrate all PTA has to offer by honoring PTA’s founding. See all the ways PTA has been advocating for children and families for 125 years and is still relevant today.  You are part of the PTA legacy. Share your story with us! Learn more ways you can celebrate PTA’s founding.

How Your PTA Can Engage Even the Busiest Working Parents

By Heather Ippolito, Vice President for Family Engagement 

To be as inclusive as possible, every PTA needs to provide opportunities for all parents and families to be involved. So far on the blog we’ve given you some ideas for engaging middle school families, men, high school families, and military families. Today we want to share some ideas for including on your campus working parents whose schedules are inflexible or particularly demanding.

Provide creative ways for working parents to donate time and participate.
They can help complete tasks at home that still benefit the PTA. Helping your PTA create fliers, social media posts, or plan events are all things that working parents can do on their own time, off campus. Offering hybrid meetings using Zoom or other teleconferencing platforms helps parents who want to attend meetings be present at your association or school meetings.

Be realistic about your expectations for your volunteers, especially working parents.
Don’t schedule meetings or events at 10 a.m. and then bemoan the fact that the same parents keep attending. Try to not only vary your meeting times, but also provide opportunities for volunteering and participation at different times of the day mornings, afternoons, evenings, and weekends to give working families more chances to help out and participate.

Make sure Communications are clear and transparent.
All parents are busy but working parents especially don’t have extra time to figure out where or when your meetings are happening. Have a one-stop shop where parents can find information about events, volunteering opportunities, etc. this could be a website, Facebook page, or using an app that parents have access to.  

We have loads more ideas for you in our communicating effectively blog post. 

Be generous with your gratitude.
All PTA volunteers should be recognized and thanked for their time and talent regularly. As previously noted, working parents may not be able to attend meetings to hear thanks given to those at the table. To be as inclusive as possible,  consider new ways to acknowledge everyone who contributes publicly in your newsletter or listed on your association agenda.

Remember to ask even the busiest working parents to help.
Sometimes these parents think that you don’t need them or that you don’t want their help.   You can fit the request to the parents’ specific interests. For example, if there’s a parent in a top executive position, ask them to share their skills during a job fair or to connect you with their business for donations or services. When your PTA branches out and seeks volunteers beyond “the usual suspects,” you make it clear that you value and appreciate assistance from every family at the school..   

Every parent wants to feel connected to their child’s school, let’s work together to give them that opportunity and make every parent a part of PTA.

Celebrate Inclusive Schools This Week — And All Year Long

By Derby Pattengill, Vice President, Health and Community Concerns

During the week of December 6, schools across the country will be raising awareness about how to make sure every classroom offers opportunities for ALL children to succeed. The national Inclusive Schools Week celebration offers ideas that local PTAs can use throughout the year to create fun inclusion programs, examine your own practices, and encourage school leaders to do the same. 

Inclusive Schools Week is an annual event sponsored by the Inclusive Schools Network (ISN) and Stetson & Associates, Inc., which is held each year during the first full week in December. As the sponsors explain, “For 20 years, Inclusive Schools Week has celebrated the progress that schools have made in providing a supportive and quality education to an increasingly diverse student population, including students who are marginalized due to disability, gender, socio-economic status, cultural heritage, language preference, and other factors. The week also provides an important opportunity for educators, students, and parents to discuss additional steps schools can take to continue to improve their ability to successfully educate all children.”

This year, the Inclusive Schools Week’s theme is “Rebuilding our Inclusive Community Together.” Join us in celebrating Inclusive Schools Week December 6-12, 2021!

In inclusive schools, the shared ownership for student success extends throughout the entire school community – from bus drivers to crossing guards, from administrators to custodians, from cafeteria workers to front office personnel, and everyone in between. Together they work to foster relationships within the school and create awareness of effective inclusive practices. For example, research has consistently demonstrated that inclusive teaching practices that present information in ways that are relevant and meaningful to each and every student can improve academic achievement for all students. 

In celebration of the week, your PTA unit, council or district could send out a press release, announce your celebration in local media outlets, and post updates on your school website, etc. Even better, consider ways to promote inclusive schools all year long by:

  • Convening a planning team of faculty, students and family members. 
  • Creating excitement by hosting poster and essay contests, hanging a banner in your school lobby or appropriate virtual location.
  • Utilizing ready-made resources and materials to support your celebration and continuous efforts to promote and develop practices in your community.

You’ll find a wealth of resources and ideas on the Inclusive Schools Network website, including this year’s Featured Activities.  School administrators play a crucial role in creating and supporting inclusive schools. Additional information and activities for them are available on the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) website here.

We encourage you to share your successes with the California State PTA. Click here to share your success stories!

Addressing Microaggressions to Make PTAs More Welcoming

We all want all families to feel welcome at our schools.

An active middle school PTSA was committed to including all voices in their PTSA planning. They worked with their school’s Spanish-bilingual and Chinese-bilingual family liaisons to engage the English-language learner communities at their school and to provide interpretation at their meetings. At every meeting, the Spanish-speaking and Cantonese-speaking families had interpretation and a familiar face to welcome them to the meetings. Before the meeting started, they felt included and welcome to their PTSA.

Yet, when it was time to discuss the budget and upcoming events, the PTSA Board described the events that they had planned and didn’t ask for feedback from all members at the meeting. The Spanish-speaking parents were confused. They had come with their ideas for community events and were excited to share their ideas, but, when they suggested new events or programs, the PTSA Officers asserted that they had already decided what the community events would be.

Do you think that the Spanish-speaking families returned to the next meeting?

“Welcoming All Families” is the first standard of Family Engagement in the National Standards for Family-School Partnerships. Our PTAs provide Welcome Back to School events, mentor families and many other terrific programs, strategies, and initiatives that are described in the National Standards Assessment Guide. We can make our schools even more welcoming by watching for micro-aggressions in your PTA meetings and activities.

Microaggressions are indirect, subtle or unintentional instances of discrimination against members of a marginalized group. Although they are thought of as small actions, microaggressions can have a tremendous impact. In a short PTA video, you can learn how to recognize microaggressions, respond to them and repair relationships in situations where we’ve committed them.

Continue your learning and reflection on micro-aggressions with these questions and resources.

For self-reflection:

  • Are you more often an observer, perpetrator or victim of microaggressions? What does it feel like for you in each of these roles?
  • Which of your identities (i.e., race, immigration status, language, religion, gender, sexuality, ability, household status, etc.) tend to have more “power” and could lead you to unintentionally commit a microaggression? What would it look like in those instances?
  • How does intent and impact show up in how you respond to microaggressions?
  • What has worked and has not worked when you have responded to a microaggression?

For your PTA to discuss:

  • Where have you seen microaggressions play out in your PTA? In your school community?
  • Who is affected by these microaggressions? What is the impact for these people?
  • How can you recognize, respond and repair microaggressions when they occur within your PTA?

Come to the Family Engagement Meet-up during Convention 2021 on May 14 at 4:00 p.m. to reflect on how you and your PTA may become more aware of and address microaggressions at your school.

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Leg Con 2021 Wrap-Up: Bringing Equity to California Public Schools

This article was written by Kitty Cahalan, President of Blair School PTSA in Pasadena (First District)

“A Path to Equity” was the focus of this year’s Legislation Conference, which I attended as a local PTA leader and advocate, but also as the parent of two public high school students. Bringing equity to California public schools has long challenged our educational leaders, and the pandemic has highlighted vast inequities in the system and left millions of California students more disadvantaged than ever. From access to mental health care and meals to the widening of a vast digital divide, the conference underscored that the prospect of getting students back on track is daunting. Far from being pessimistic, however, the conference presented information and opportunities that we as parents and PTA advocates can use to disrupt ineffective old practices and bring public education into a new era in which all are included and empowered, and in which the needs of all are seen and addressed.

State Superintendent Tony Thurmond opened the conference and focused on restorative justice and increased digital access and literacy as examples of measures needed at the state level to increase inclusiveness and access for all students. President Celia Jaffe shared CAPTA’s ten recommendations for the timely and safe reopening of schools. Director of Legislation Shereen Walter shared CAPTA’s legislative agenda and the critical need for “our collective voices to influence legislation and the state budget to improve equity, access, and opportunity for all of California’s children.” Then, National PTA President-Elect Anna King shared her personal stories of witnessing how racial and economic inequities affected her own children, injustices which led directly to her involvement in PTA and her work to bring a collective voice on behalf of all children to our nation’s leaders and educational decision-makers. This was a powerful start to the conference.

Equity best practices were discussed in sessions about equity in the arts, community schools, and schools as incubators for democracy.

  • Tom DeCaigny, California Alliance for Arts Education, stated that even though the arts are shown to be effective for development of motor skills, a powerful educational tool for students with disabilities, and are mandated by the state, arts education implementation continues to fall short in districts throughout the state. DeCaigny identified PTA as a key messenger and urged coordinated messaging for the arts, especially during remote learning.
  • Michael Essien, a middle school principal, shared how adherence to the school’s North Stars – whole child, student voice, belonging and rigorous education – combined with ongoing staff training in implicit bias, as well as community partners to bring tiered interventions to students, helped the school meet students and their families where they are. When students feel healthy, safe, and included, he said, they will be ready to learn.
  • John Rogers, UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access (IDEA) examined mission statements and LCAPs from districts across the state, looking for indicators that districts consider themselves responsible for the civic education of their students, and found very few districts include keywords such as “democracy” and “civic participation.” Rogers encouraged participants to consider their school districts’ role in furthering democracy and to encourage students to learn how to participate in their communities’ civic lives.

Each of these speakers gave clear, actionable information for the advocates in attendance to use to further the call for equity.

The news on the budget front was encouraging, as California has an unexpected budget surplus. Budget experts discussed the state government’s priorities: addressing the digital divide, helping students who have been the most affected by the pandemic catch up, and providing for an increase in mental health services. Many of these allocations will come in the form of one-time funds and will challenge districts to rapidly deploy services to our most at-risk students. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, pushing for the additional revenue to go to education, especially early childhood education. He said that PTA is best positioned among all advocacy groups to disrupt the layers of abstraction between what is decided in Sacramento and what is happening on school campuses. He challenged us to communicate specifically what is needed in schools. Brooks Allen, Education Policy Advisor to the Governor, made clear the breadth of the challenge – nearly two-thirds of the state’s students, about 3.7 million children, come from economically disadvantaged homes – and the state must focus on these students or the additional funds will not have the impact we wish to see.

The theme of equity echoed throughout the conference: access, inclusive approaches, and listening to all the voices in our communities. Our path toward equity requires that our local and state leaders share a coherent, unified message that puts the needs of the most vulnerable first. Not only was this message shared in multiple legislative meetings, but PTA participants left the conference with the tools to continue to forge this path forward for our students.

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Inclusive Schools Week: December 7-11, 2020

This week is Inclusive Schools Week, celebrating the progress that schools have made in providing a supportive and quality education to an increasingly diverse student population, including students who are marginalized due to disability, gender, socio-economic status, cultural heritage, language preference, and other factors. 

When PTAs respect differences yet acknowledge shared commonalities uniting their communities, and then develop meaningful priorities based upon their knowledge, they genuinely represent their communities. When PTAs represent their communities, they gain strength and effectiveness through increased volunteer and resource support.

This week and all year long, we hope you’ll take advantage of resources from our guest commentator (below), Inclusive School Network, and National PTA to help your unit, council or district build a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive PTA.  The California State PTA Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee also recommend the following to get ongoing inclusion education updates throughout the year:


  • Tim Villegas, Founder & Editor-in-chief Think Inclusive  @therealtimvegas
  • Inclusive Schools Network @ISchoolsNetwork


  • Think Inclusive by MCIE @ThinkInclusive
  • Inclusive Schools Network @inclusiveschoolsnetwork

Newsletter to subscribe to about inclusion:


Guest Commentary: Inclusive Schools Network

One observation that people around the world are sharing in the year 2020 is the importance of the word ‘Inclusion’.  We have chosen our new theme in recognition of at least three ways in which a greater appreciation for inclusion, as a philosophy and as a way of life in our schools and community, has emerged.

First, the Inclusive Schools Network publishes the annual theme as a way of bringing students, educators, families together to celebrate the accomplishments of schools in increasing the membership of students with disabilities as full members of their school communities.  Our celebrations balance appreciation for the progress that has been made with an honest evaluation of the hurdles that remain.  Each year, the joyous examples of inclusive practices in schools around the world lift our spirits and increase our commitment to reaching a day when “inclusion” is fully embedded in our collective humanity.

As this year has progressed, we have an unusual vantage point for understanding an even broader meaning of inclusion.  Across the world, we are experiencing a new form of isolation that is required in response to the coronavirus pandemic.  Schools, shops, recreational facilities, and even basic outlets for direct social interaction are closed. We are now familiar with a new term: social distancing.  For our own safety and the safety of others, we wear masks and restrict our outings and opportunities for gathering together. In the not too distant future, we will be able to celebrate our resilience in the face of difficulty and experience the joys of being included in a community that learns, plays, and works together.

Finally, on a worldwide basis, we have seen the true meaning of inclusion in the struggle for social justice.  When we recognize the deep and, yes, inclusive meaning of the inherent right of every individual to be equal in the eyes of society, the law and in the opportunities life offers, we can appreciate that the movement to gain inclusion for children with disabilities is the same promise that must be realized for all!

Through our celebration of Inclusive Schools Week, December 7-11, 2020, let’s make certain that our definition of the term ‘inclusion’ is broad enough to encompass all aspects of the opportunities before us.  The Inclusive Schools Network’s website has activities for celebrating each remaining month of this year and provides schools and communities with another vehicle for learning, growing and recognizing “The Time for Inclusion is NOW!”

The Inclusive Schools Network (ISN) is a web-based educational resource for families, schools and communities that promotes inclusive educational practices. This resource has grown out of Inclusive Schools Week™, an internationally-recognized annual event created by Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC) and now sponsored by Stetson & Associates, Inc. ISN’s mission is “to encourage, embolden and empower people to design and implement effective inclusive schools, by sharing insights and best practices and by providing opportunities for connection.”

The ISN provides year-round opportunities for families and educators around the world to network and build their knowledge of inclusive education.

Book Review: “The New Jim Crow,” by Michelle Alexander

The CAPTA Legislation team is in the process of reading and discussing one book a month on the topic of the African American experience in the U.S. We decided to do this to educate ourselves about this pertinent and important issue. Our first two books were How To Be an Antiracist by Ibram Kendi and The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein. Our third book is The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.

The book asserts that the War on Drugs and resulting mass incarceration of African Americans is The New Jim Crow.

Author Michelle Alexander contends that there is no truth to the notion that the war on drugs was launched in response to the crack cocaine epidemic. The war on drugs was announced in 1982, before cocaine use became an issue. At the time, less than 2% of the public viewed drugs as an important issue. The Reagan administration hired staff to publicize the emergence of crack cocaine in 1985 as a strategy to build public and legislative support for the war on drugs. Eventually there was a surge of public concern, but it did not correspond to a dramatic shift in illegal drug activity but instead was the product of a carefully orchestrated political campaign.

In less than 30 years, the U.S. penal population exploded from around 300,000 to more than 2 million, with drug convictions accounting for the majority of the increase. Our incarceration rate is 6 to 10 times greater than other industrialized nations. There are more people in the U.S. in jail today for drug offenses than were incarcerated for all reasons in 1980. The vast majority of those arrested are African Americans charged with relatively minor crimes. Arrests for marijuana account for 80%. People convicted of drug offenses now constitute the single largest category of people in prison.

Why? What happened?

According to the author, few legal rules constrain police in the war on drugs.

The Supreme Court has eviscerated the 4th Amendment (protection against unreasonable searches and seizures). The Court has upheld the constitutionality of unwarranted search and seizures for suspected drug offenses. In addition, laws were passed that gave law enforcement agencies the ability to keep cash and assets seized during a drug arrest. Huge federal grants were given to law enforcement agencies willing to make drug law enforcement a top priority. Millions of dollars in federal aid was offered to state and local law enforcement  agencies to wage the war.  So long as the number of drug arrests increased, federal dollars continued to flow.

And who was targeted for this profitable war? The Black population.

It is estimated that 3 out of 4 young Black men can expect to serve time in prison for a drug offense. Despite the fact that studies show that people of all colors use and sell illegal drugs at remarkable similar rates, in some states Black men have been admitted to prison on drug charges at rates 20 to 50 times greater than white men.

What has been the actual effect of the war on drugs?

Although it is common to think of poverty and joblessness as leading to a life of crime, the research cited in this book suggests that the war on drugs is a major cause of poverty, chronic unemployment, broken families, and crime in the African American community.

Being in prison is not the only problem. Today a person released from prison has scarcely more rights and arguably less respect than a freed slave. There is no public assistance, the job market is bleak for convicted felons, and they are barred from serving on a jury. They are shunned by all. Shame and stigma follow jail time. Severe isolation, distrust and alienation are created by incarceration.

Prison sentences and the resulting felon label pose a much greater threat to urban families than actual crime itself. As a crime reduction strategy, mass incarceration is an abysmal failure. It is largely ineffective and extraordinarily expensive. Prison creates criminals; it doesn’t help anyone or change them or give them a chance to redeem and recover.

The point of this book is to stimulate a much-needed conversation about the role of the criminal justice system in creating and perpetuating racial hierarchy through mass incarceration.

By reading and discussing the books on our list, the members of our Legislation Team are learning and understanding many of the factors that are impacting families of color and look for ways that we can advocate for change in the best interest of all children and families.

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Global Diversity Awareness Month: Parent Stories, Part 2

First, listen…

Unit PTA leader: We decided to move to an area where my Black son would see peers and school adults who looked like him. As a PTA leader, I know the power of advocacy and partnership with school staff. I advocated with his teachers about implicit bias and how harmful it was to send my son to sit at the desk for the same behavior his white friends engaged in but instead received a warning and allowed to sit on the carpet. We advocated with the school to address the bullying and use of unacceptable language around race. We advocated with the PTA and parents that even if we didn’t have a large African American population, an African American Living Museum should be a school event. There was some success but it was exhausting. After a few years, as a family, we decided that living in and being educated in a community that is integrated and more diverse was the right choice for us. We had read about how students of color are disciplined more, tracked for AP classes less, and the list went on. We wanted to minimize the impact of the embedded systemic bias.

Then, learn…

Even though #GlobalDiversityAwareness Month is over, we want diversity, equity and inclusion to be a focus all year round. California State PTA and National PTA have position statements and resolutions that give us authority to act on behalf of all families:

Then, Take Action…

We recognize that each PTA and school community will have different solutions, but these are great places to start: 

  • Look at the demographics of families on your campus– Are they represented on your PTA board?  Are there activities that highlight and celebrate these families and make them feel like they are an integral part of your campus?  Does your library showcase authors and books with characters that represent these families?  Are your assemblies diverse enough that all children see themselves in the presentations?
  • Educate yourself, your board, and your school community about the challenges these families face by holding a book club or hosting listening sessions. 
  • Participate in the upcoming Listening Sessions that California State PTA will hold in January. 

Click here to read part 1 of this series.

Click here to read part 2 of this series.

Click here to read part 3 of this series.

Click here to read part 4 of this series.

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