New Clear Vision


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Archive for the ‘Diane Lefer’

Restoring Respect

January 23, 2017 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Diane Lefer, Education

Disrupting the School-to-Prison Pipeline

by Diane Lefer

When the Los Angeles Unified school board voted in May 2013 to ban the practice of suspending students for “willful defiance,” the blogosphere roiled with outrage. “Moron” was one of the mildest words used to attack school board president Monica Garcia and her colleagues. Students were referred to as thugs and animals, with black and Mexican American students singled out for particular abuse. Teachers said they wouldn’t be able to teach if they couldn’t remove disruptive students from the classroom. Both candidates for mayor declared their opposition to the new policy.

So why would the board want the distinction of being the first school district in the US to take this step?

California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye has explained that being suspended triples a young person’s likelihood of contact with the juvenile justice system within the year. A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University and focused on a major city in the Northeast found that even a single suspension in the 9th grade doubled the chance that a student would drop out of high school. (more…)

Are We Having Fun Yet?

December 27, 2016 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Current Events, Diane Lefer

Reconsidering War, Video Games, and the Nonviolence Playbook

by Diane Lefer

One morning in October I waited at the gate of the Air Ground Combat Center Marine training base in the Mojave Desert, Twentynine Palms, CA. I’d been invited with a community group about to take a public tour of what is essentially a grad school for combat. Marines from around the country — units 1,000 members strong — who’ve already completed basic training and are almost ready to deploy come here for 35 days of intensive work, including live-fire training and urban warfare practice in “Little Iraqi villages.”

“I don’t care if you learn anything today,” said the retired Marine who would lead our tour. “I’m here to keep you entertained. At the end of the day, if you don’t have fun, it’s my fault.”

But first, our drivers licenses were collected. Quick identity checks “just to make sure you’re not a terrorist.”

We waited. A woman near the front of the parking lot stared, scrutinizing me.

For a few years, my emails carried an automatic tag at the end: I am a terrorist. By paying US taxes, I provide financial support to State-sponsored terrorism and torture. I don’t remember when I deleted the statement, but it occurred to me my past might have caught up with me.

(more…)

Children Matter

December 11, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Diane Lefer, Family

Coping with the Trauma of Incarcerated Parents

by Diane Lefer

Imagine that as you read these words, someone bursts into the room and holds a gun to your head. Your body and brain react instantly to the threat in ways that can be measured scientifically as cortisol floods your system.

Children with Incarcerated ParentsThe same level of cortisol is found in young children when separated from a primary caregiver. That absence feels as life-threatening as a loaded gun, explained Ann Adalist Estrin, currently the Director of National Resource Center on Children of Incarcerated Parents.

The adult calms down, she continued, when the threat is ended. Dopamine floods the system with relief. But in a young child, the dopamine response comes from contact with the caregiver. So what happens if the caregiver is gone? Toxic stress can change the chemistry and actual architecture of the developing brain, potentially with lifelong consequences.

Today, approximately 2.7 million American children are separated from a parent because of arrest and lockup in prison or jail. Do we simply accept that these kids will be collateral damage in our culture of mass incarceration? (more…)

RJ in LA

September 24, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Diane Lefer

Bringing Restorative Justice into Los Angeles Schools

by Diane Lefer

In May, when the LAUSD board voted to end the practice of suspending students for “willful defiance,” the blogosphere heated up. Monica Garcia, then board president, was called a moron, and students were referred to as thugs, animals, and savages. Well, guess what, haters? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Recently, after the school year began with LAUSD rolling out a plan to replace punitive disciplinary measures with the practices of restorative justice, Garcia was applauded by community advocates at a meeting at Loyola Law School. In return, she gave the activists their props: “It’s because of your advocacy,” she said.

The restorative justice initiative was championed by community groups including CADRE, Community Rights Campaign, Dignity in Schools, and Youth Justice Coalition, all committed to keeping kids out of the criminal and juvenile court system and in school. This approach asks, Who was harmed? How can that harm be repaired? What are the needs and responsibilities of the parties? How can the parties be held accountable in a positive and healthy way? (more…)

Unlikely Friends

April 10, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Diane Lefer, Family

When Victims and Perpetrators Meet

by Diane Lefer

A few years back, after I spent an evening at a halfway house for men on parole, Sister Mary Sean Hodges challenged me. She has worked tirelessly through the Office of Restorative Justice, LA Archdiocese, on behalf of incarcerated men and women and those seeking to reenter society. She liked what I’d done advocating for gang members, prisoners, and criminal justice reform, but in her view I had fallen short. “You have to meet the victims, too,” she said.

I did, and soon felt overwhelmed and helpless in the face of so much pain and rage. I wished there could be another way — a better way — to cope with such grief, but when I heard of other ways, I was cynical. I loved Reginald Denny for forgiving the teens who beat him unconscious during LA’s civil unrest, but, hey, with his head injury, he remembered nothing of the attack and I figured that made it easier to forgive. As for other cases I heard about, seriously, would you open your heart to your child’s murderer? I wanted to admire such compassion but it seemed more like delusional naïveté. You’d have to be a saint — or crazy. (more…)

One Billion Rising

February 19, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Diane Lefer, Family

V-Day Panel Seeks to End Violence Against Women and Girls

by Diane Lefer

“One billion women violated is an atrocity. One billion women dancing is a revolution.”

That was the statement sent out by the One Billion Rising campaign urging women around the world to dance in the streets on February 14 and demand an end to violence against women and girls.

While “Break the Chain,” the campaign’s music video, screened in the background, three dozen women and a few men in the meeting room of the Los Angeles chapter, National Council of Jewish Women got up and danced before settling down to the serious business of a panel on teen dating violence. (more…)

Two-Tiered Work

January 16, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Diane Lefer, Economy

What Happens in Bogotá Doesn’t Stay in Bogotá

by Diane Lefer

Jorge Parra is speaking out — even though his lips are sewn shut.

Parra was a skilled trades welder when he went to work for General Motors Colombian subsidiary Colmotores. There, he developed herniated discs, severe carpal tunnel in both hands, and upper spinal tendinosis.

In a translated written statement, he explained, “I underwent three surgeries and now walk with a cane due to the injuries I sustained at GM. When I first started feeling pain in my lower back and legs … I went to GM’s medical center. They gave me injections of Oxycontin and Diclofenac and sent me back to work.” (more…)