The pandemic has left too many young people in San Francisco feeling isolated and unsafe. In recent months, we’ve seen this play out in a number of safety incidents involving students from San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) middle schools. Outside of school, there’s been violence between young people on public transit and at shopping malls.
To hear directly from young people and community members, CAA recently organized, along with our partners in the Coalition for Community Safety and Justice – Community Youth Center, Chinatown Community Development Center, and Chinese Progressive Association – a Youth Safety Town Hall to provide limited-English speaking Chinese immigrant families with direct access to citywide institutions tasked with school safety concerns. In turn, City agencies heard directly from Chinese parents on this issue.
The difficulties facing youth are not unique to San Francisco. Across the country, one-third of youth have considered suicide. Teenage girls and LGBTQ+ young people fare even worse, experiencing extremely high levels of violence and deeper mental health challenges.
“I bet if you ask each student at our school if they feel safe, 99% will say that they have some sort of unsafe feeling,” said Vanessa He, a high school student, and CYC youth leader. Vanessa told City agencies that students were bringing weapons to school, including tasers and pepper spray, in order to protect themselves. “Where are the safety measures put into place?” she asked.
Ah Yee has three children in SFUSD schools. At the Town Hall, she recounted the moment she learned that her coworker was the guardian of the sixth-grader who was stabbed at Francisco Middle School, as well as her worries about other safety-related incidents that are not reported in the media. Ah Yee shared her views that the pandemic, social media, video games, and a lack of support from schools have all played a role in the deterioration of the mental health of students and their families.
City agencies including SFUSD, San Francisco Department of Children, Youth, and Their Families (DCYF), and San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency (SFMTA) were on hand to affirm that the pandemic has greatly impacted young people and their growth. While listening to concerned parents, they committed to redoubling efforts to ensure the safety of young people as well as provide for a healthy learning environment. But community efforts like the Coalition for Community Safety and Justice will need to hold all parties accountable.
This Youth Safety Town Hall marks the beginning of an ongoing effort of CAA to ensure the safety of immigrant youth and parents. Together, with the Coalition for Community Safety and Justice, we will work on ongoing dialogues and initiatives that keep everyone moving forward with productive solutions.
Chinese for Affirmative Action