We’re so proud of Lori Beth Dunlap for speaking to issues she’s witnessed within our community and demanding action to help shape a better future for our young people – one that provides hope, health, and connection to the youth of our future.
Good evening Dr. Joseph, members of the board…
Thank you for the opportunity to speak briefly this evening…My name is Lori Beth Dunlap and I am the STARS counselor at Buena Vista Enhanced Option Elementary School. This is my third year at Buena Vista, and to say I love what I do is an understatement, I consider it a privilege J A significant part of my role in the school is to build relationships with scholars, their families, teachers, staff and administrators in order to provide restorative approaches to addressing behavioral issues that impede the learning process. I do this through behavioral crisis support, as well as individual and group counseling sessions…and I see and hear the trauma that many of our scholars carry with them into the building on a daily basis. The task of keeping ALL of our scholars physically, mentally and emotionally safe in our schools cannot solely fall on the already heavily burdened shoulders of our teachers and administrators- counseling services offered in the school setting are a vital part of the success of our scholars academically, socially AND emotionally. I have seen firsthand how offering these services not only positively impacts the child and their ability to learn but changes the classroom and school environment at large for the better as well.
In my almost 11 years as a social work professional, I’ve also had the privilege of working with adults exiting incarceration, and was entrusted with a “front row seat” in supporting them as they sought to rebuild their lives. I’ve heard their stories…of pain and trauma…that led them to make decisions they never thought they would have made, ending up in places they never would have envisioned for themselves when they were children…and that we would never envision for any of our scholars. So many of these painful stories and journeys began in childhood…where messages of their worth and value (or lack thereof) were implicitly and explicitly reinforced by adults and systems that should have met them where they were, protected them and advocated for them EQUITABLY. It is my assumption and hopes that all of us here are committed to doing our part to make sure that ALL of our scholars are not only thriving now…but have bright and hopeful futures both inside and outside of the school walls. Our scholars should not only have adults in their lives that are pointing them towards hope and success-even when they are at their most difficult and fragile-but the greater systems of our city should choose to actively take a stance that reflects this hope as well…for ALL of our children.
I ask you, the board, to create a policy that will end all suspensions, expulsions, and arrests for elementary school students, except on 500 level offenses.
I will leave you with this African Proverb:
“The child who is not embraced by the village…will burn it down to feel its warmth”.
Thank you for your time,
Lori Beth Dunlap