School Committee Letter RE: Justice for Flavia
Dear Members of the Somerville School Committee,
We are writing in support of Flavia Perea in an effort to get justice for her son, and to create systemic change to ensure children are never again harmed by the policing of children in school or by referrals to law enforcement of our children in school.
We would like to meet with you individually to discuss how our community can move forward from this tragic incident together. In the fall of 2019 the police were called after a classmate and friend of Flavia’s son told her teacher that he “touched my bum”. Both children were in first grade which is when this type of behavior is common and developmentally appropriate. The Somerville Police Department (SPD) responded as if the child was an alleged sex offender. To this day, the SPD maintains a sealed record of the incident connected to the child – the beginning of a criminal record.
What happened to Flavia’s son, who is Black and Latino, is the embodiment of the school-to-prison pipeline, a racial justice crisis, and a function of systemic injustice in education that disproportionately impacts children of color. It involves a constellation of factors including harsh discipline, policing in school, and referrals to law enforcement. Importantly, it reflects deep-seated racism and implicit bias that influence individual decisions, and therefore professional practice and policies, which go on to infect institutions and communities.
In the summer of 2015 our city hung a “Black Lives Matter” sign in front of City Hall. In the summer of 2020 after the public murder of George Floyd by the police our Mayor declared systemic racism a public health emergency. What happened to Flavia’s son is an example of how this public health emergency starts devaluing black life in childhood right here in Somerville. As the leaders of our schools, we are calling on you to work together with the community to implement systemic anti-racist changes.
We want: Police out of schools and counselors in; a fully funded Restorative Justice program; annual district-wide Anti-Racism and Implicit Bias training; and an Independent Equity Audit of our Schools.
We would like to meet with each of you individually to discuss how our community can equitably move forward together. We must ensure school is a safe and nurturing learning environment, one that does not undermine learning or funnel children of color into juvenile and criminal justice systems. As the leaders of our school, you have an opportunity for bold, visionary leadership that can advance equity and racial justice. We hope you will work with us to do what is right for Flavia’s son and for our community.
We look forward to hearing from you.
The Justice for Flavia Team