Student Leadership

Education Justice in Dallas County

TCJE’s Perception Equals Potential (P.E.P.) Initiative launched in early 2020 to identify and advance community-based solutions that can improve outcomes for Dallas-area students of color. These students are over-disciplined compared to white students – meaning, they’re suspended, expelled, and even referred to the juvenile justice system at higher rates. That makes it harder for them to develop and succeed in the long run.

The P.E.P. Initiative has been listening to students, as well as parents and teachers, about what really works to keep kids on the right path – things like mentoring, student engagement, mindfulness, peer-to-peer mental health support, positive self-perception, and restorative justice. 

Students who take part in P.E.P. work together with advocates, practitioners, and more to fight for better outcomes for themselves, their peers, and their schools.

Student Representation at the Texas Capitol

During Texas’ 2021 legislative session, a coalition of students gathered at the State Capitol to advocate for legislation that would give high schoolers a voice on their school boards, as well as oppose legislation that would shield schools from liability for harm done by school security personnel. Along with TCJE, they met with lawmakers and gave testimony in committee hearings, and later some of the students filmed an Instagram Live to share more about their day of action and their perspective on these issues.

Policy Associate Perspectives: Youth Decarceration

During Black History Month in 2021, TCJE’s Youth Justice Policy Associates highlighted how Black kids are driven into the criminal legal system at higher rates than their white peers – research that supported TCJE’s larger policy advocacy. And on social media, they discussed what youth decarceration means to each of them, and how Texas can support kids of color instead of criminalizing them.

Student-Led Restorative Justice Campaign

In 2020, TCJE’s first-ever Youth Justice Ambassador Jemima Abalogu authored a report highlighting best practices for restorative justice. “Reversing the Pipeline to Prison in Texas” took into account perspectives of students throughout Texas, and it provided real-life examples of school-based restorative justice in action. Jemima helped host a report launch event in San Antonio, where a panel of students led a discussion about their experiences with harsh disciplinary policies and school policing, and she also shared our report findings during an event in Houston with area school district representatives. Later, Jemima authored a blog post on her work on this issue, and she helmed TCJE’s Twitter account for a national conversation with young leaders and advocates around police-free schools.

2022-23 Youth Justice Ambassadors

In 2022, TCJE brought on 4 Youth Justice Ambassadors — high school and early college students — who partnered with the organization's youth justice team to advocate for changes in punitive school culture and address the over-criminalization of young people. These ambitious students developed leadership and organizing skills to be able to design, advance, and mobilize support for reform campaigns, while elevating the voices of impacted young people.

In July 2022, our Ambassadors led a presentation on school culture; watch the video here.

At the end of their time with TCJE, some of our Youth Justice Ambassadors created projects centered on the 2023 Texas Legislative Session.