The student-built app puts the power of self-advocacy right in the palm of your hand.
image via (cc) flickr user kumonews
Boston-area high schoolers have a new digital tool to help them flex their student rights and understand their responsibilities as members of their local public school system.
“Boston Student Rights” is a just-launched website and smartphone app (to be made available for Android phones in the coming week) designed to give students a clear understanding of Boston’s public school policies when it comes to questions of discipline, free speech in the classroom, and even cell phone usage in schools. More than just a simplified rule book, Boston Student Rights was created to encourage students to self-advocate in instances where they feel their rights may be being infringed upon.
The service is the brainchild of the Boston Student Advisory Council, a group comprised of elected student representatives and overseen by several local student-focused nonprofit groups. One of those student representatives, Ayomide Olumuyiwa, explains to Boston's WBUR: “We chose an app because we’re the generation of phones. Like, we all have our phones for everything, so an app is just one click away.” That, perhaps, is Boston Student Rights’ most impressive aspect: The fact that it’s not a top-down approach to student empowerment, but rather a peer-developed application that speaks the digital language of its intended users.
Beyond simply encouraging self-advocacy on the part of students, Boston Student Rights seeks to disrupt the “school-to-prison pipeline,” a term used to describe what happens when, as a result of overly-harsh school policies, students find themselves pushed out of the educational system, and into the criminal justice one, instead. Citing data from a 2012-2013 study, the app’s website explains that “72% of students in Massachusetts were suspended for non-violent, non-criminal, non-drug incidents” (the study actually refers to 72 percent of student incidents which resulted in disciplinary action, not 72 percent of all students) and makes the case that by helping students clarify for themselves any uncertainties surrounding those types of incidents, they can cut down on undue suspensions and other instances of unnecessary punishment, thereby keeping pupils in school, and out of jail.
The app, and the passionate students responsible for its creation, have already found support from a powerful ally—incoming Boston area superintendent Tommy Chang, who told WBUR: “They’ve been able to create this app that is addressing one of the most important issues, which is not our dropout problem, but our push-out problem in urban school systems. I’m just super proud to work with youth in this way.”