The Education and Youth Development Program seeks to ensure that all students are fully included in schooling and other opportunities that prepare them for success in adulthood
An overwhelming majority of youth in Baltimore City Public Schools experience the effects of concentrated and, most often, generational poverty, coupled with limited exposure to opportunities. This experience is further compounded by discriminatory treatment in and out of school. Equitable education is the most accessible way to break out of the crippling cycle of poverty.
OSI-Baltimore believes that equitable education is best achieved by removing prohibitive barriers and inequitable practices that push children out of school and into the school to prison pipeline. The Education and Youth Development Program seeks to ensure that all student groups are fully included in schooling and other opportunities that prepare them for success in adulthood.
The Open Society Institute’s work to integrate restorative practices (RP) in Baltimore City Public Schools has taken off. The district has integrated this work into its Blueprint for Success, nearly 60 of the district’s 174 schools (over one third) have already begun implementation and all Baltimore City School Police have been trained in RP, contributing to a 79% drop in school-based arrests over a four year period.
Students at City Springs Elementary-Middle, one of the first schools in Baltimore to integrate restorative practices
Moreover, the advocacy for and implementation of RP in Baltimore City has catalyzed the state to recommend the use of restorative approaches in all school districts in Maryland. We are excited that this practice is gaining traction in Baltimore and in Maryland, but we realize that schools alone cannot change attitudes and behaviors regarding violence. As part of OSI-Baltimore’s long-term vision to make Baltimore a restorative or healing city, the Open Society Institute has begun to move beyond schools and into communities.
Safe Streets Partnership
Baltimoreans were alarmed and concerned when in 2019, Baltimore’s gun violence culminated in 348 homicides, the deadliest year on record. Sadly, these numbers largely involved adolescent and young men. In response to this crisis, the Education and Youth Development Program sought to partner with Safe Streets Baltimore, an organization that has a long track record of reaching and de-escalating people who are contemplating violence. Safe Streets, like the organization it is modeled after—Chicago’s CeaseFire program—employs formerly incarcerated outreach professionals, called “violence interrupters,” to de-escalate and mediate disputes in the community that might otherwise result in serious violence. Safe Streets staff have already received a two-day training in RP in partnership with OSI, the Family League, and the Positive Schools Center and have indicated that this practice is highly compatible with their violence interruption practices.
Safe Streets staff work out of offices in violence-affected communities, which puts them in contact with a variety of challenges that people living in Baltimore experience, including toxic stress, mental and physical health challenges, unstable housing/homelessness, addiction concerns, criminal/juvenile justice issues, and basic documentation needs. So in addition to addressing violence, Safe Streets staff often find themselves handling numerous problems that fall outside of their scope of work and expertise. Because of its proven track record of significantly reducing homicides in the neighborhoods that they serve, in 2019, Safe Streets prepared to create several new offices in Baltimore. OSI plans to partner with Baltimore City and Safe Streets to provide these strategically located Safe Streets offices or “community hubs” with additional training and support in an attempt to extend the reach and capacity of Safe Streets interrupters.
Funding in 2019 allowed all Safe Streets personnel to engage in group training in next-tier restorative practices, mindfulness, soft skills, gender awareness, and domestic partner violence. These trainings broadened the set of tools Safe Streets staff have at their disposal to prevent and disrupt violence in their respective communities.
Funding will be earmarked to allow designated Safe Streets offices to provide stipends to community-based assistants who will support those offices by acting as: liaisons and organizers in the community, RP and mindfulness facilitators, neighborhood canvassers, and/or lay advocates. These Community Assistants will help support the functionality of the selected sites and invite greater participation in violence interruption from community residents.
A community services needs assessment, resource mapping, and community canvassing will also be conducted in selected/if not all of the neighborhoods being served by Safe Streets. This will ensure that interrupters are well positioned to make needed referrals for the myriad concerns that community members bring to their offices for resolution. Safe Streets staff are aware that these concerns denote important risk factors for violence, and that addressing these concerns not only reduces their impact on violence, but also builds needed trust between Safe Streets staff and community members.
A restorative circle at Bard Early College High School
Education and Youth Development grants
Advocates for Children and Youth
$160,000 over 18 months to advocate for equitable school funding and policies and practices that improve school climate and reduce harsh school discipline.
American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Maryland
$80,000 over one year to advocate for equitable school funding and school discipline reform.
$75,000 over one year to advocate for a new, more equitable Maryland school funding formula as well as restorative student discipline policies and regulations.
Disability Rights Maryland
$87,500 over one year to address the systemic barriers that disproportionately impact students and other individuals with disabilities.*
FreeState Legal Project
$50,000 over one year to advocate for practices and policies that protect and include LGBTQ students in their school communities.
Fund for Educational Excellence
$262,500 over one year to support Baltimore City Schools in implementing intensive restorative practices in an additional 20 schools.
Positive Schools Center
$225,000 over one year to enable The Positive Schools Center at the University of Maryland School of Social Work to train educators and students in Baltimore City public schools to use restorative and complementary practices to improve school climates.
Strong Schools Maryland
$50,000 over one year to advocate for a just and equitable funding formula for Maryland’s public schools.