Students with jailed parents may gain support

The City’s public schools are planning to better support students with incarcerated parents in the coming years, including to possibly develop classroom curriculum that teaches the impacts of incarceration.

San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education Vice President Matt Haney and Commissioner Shamann Walton on Tuesday will introduce a resolution that would call for the school district to expand upon its support for students with incarcerated parents, particularly at schools where there may be a higher concentration of such students.

It’s estimated that nationwide, one in nine black children has an incarcerated parent, while the same is true for one in 28 Hispanic children and one in 57 white children, according to the resolution.

Studies have shown children with incarcerated parents often suffer from trauma, anxiety, shame, guilt, depression, withdrawal and low self-esteem. They also can see a decline in school performance, and are more prone to using drugs or alcohol and have difficulty sleeping or concentrating.

“Parental incarceration is one the most severe forms of trauma a child can go through, with major social, emotional and academic consequences,” Haney wrote in an email to the San Francisco Examiner. “Our schools can better understand the experiences of students with incarcerated parents, and work harder, smarter and more compassionately to meet their needs.”

Walton said there are an estimated several thousand children within The City’s public schools with incarcerated parents, some of whom helped Walton and Haney write the resolution.
“We really want to make sure that children who have parents who are incarcerated are supported,” Walton said.

This school year, there is just one SFUSD-based program specifically for students with incarcerated parents. The ROOTS theater program at the Academy of Arts and Sciences High School is in its second year at the site.

Per the resolution, the district will help students communicate with their incarcerated parents when appropriate, and assign a staff liaison to work with the parent education and case management program in the San Francisco County Jail.

The resolution also calls for the district to work with community organizations to create curriculum related to children with incarcerated parents as well as the broader impacts of incarceration.

The board does not typically vote on a resolution when it is introduced.

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