How We Advance Youth Justice

SCSJ supports communities of color and grassroots organizations working to end the over-criminalization of youth. We represent young people and their families who seek justice and accountability from schools and legal systems that too often disregard and punish youth rather than provide services and support. We provide communications, messaging, and policy support to shift narratives criminalizing youth — efforts which include developing and disseminating advocacy toolkits that empower and support community organizing efforts. We also work to lift up the voices of justice-impacted youth, who are too often ignored, to inform future policy decisions about resource allocations and ways to better support young people. Centering the most impacted and allowing them to tell their own stories is essential to our work.

Young diverse friend group smiling together

We Strive to...

Youth Justice Project

The Youth Justice Project (YJP) envisions a future in which young people of color attend schools that lift them up, not pat them down; live in communities that follow their lead, not suppress their voice; and are served by governments that invest in their future, not their incarceration. We believe in a world where no child is criminalized and all Black and Brown youth receive the education and support necessary to thrive in their full dignity.

We believe all youth:

  • Possess value, potential, and unique strengths and needs;
  • Are fundamentally different from adults, and should be treated as such;
  • Are rights-bearing persons who should be meaningfully involved and heard in matters affecting them;
  • Deserve to be free of racism, classism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, ageism, ableism, and other forms of discrimination;
  • Deserve supports and services necessary to be healthy, well-educated, safe, and economically secure;
  • Deserve systems and communities that are warm, welcoming, loving, caring, and safe;
  • Deserve laws, policies, and practices impacting them to be based on research, data, and principles of cooperation and positive youth development, not based on profit, competition, and control;
  • Deserve a high-quality education that enables them to both develop skills and knowledge and become critical, courageous, creative thinkers in a self-governing democracy; and
  • Should be protected and rehabilitated when they encounter the juvenile and criminal systems.

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Youth Justice Project logo

Youth Opportunities

Youth Steering Committee

The Youth Justice Project – Youth Steering Committee (YJP-YSC) is a youth-led group of Durham Public School (DPS) students of color who are committed to ending the school-to-prison pipeline and achieving educational justice.

We envisions a future in which young people of color attend schools that lift them up, not pat them down; live in communities that follow their lead, not suppress their voice; and are served by governments that invest in their future, not their incarceration. We believe in a world where no child is criminalized and all Black, Latinx and LGBTQIA+ youth receive the education and support necessary to thrive in their full dignity.

Youth Steering Committee Meeting
Youth Steering Committee Capstone Project Meeting, where a young man is writing on a large paper taped to the wall

Capstone Project

This year’s Capstone is a community-led, group-based, mentored service-learning course that is a vital part of SCSJ’s Youth Decriminalization Campaign.

Capstone-specific members of Youth Justice Project will take on community-based research that contributes to the larger network of resources used by organizations, academic institutions, and others, in understanding the effects of youth criminalization both in and outside of North Carolina.

Our Work

Invest In Our Children, Invest In Our Youth: Ending Youth Criminalization in North Carolina

Invest In Our Children, Invest In our Youth: Ending Youth Criminalization in North Carolina calls for a reinvestment in community-led alternatives that support and nourish young people and their communities.

This report follows a divest/invest framework, which brings attention to the choices that resource a misguided and racist system as we call for an investment in community-led initiatives that prioritize and support the healthy development of young people.

Photo of teen masculine of center person wearing glasses and a white button shirt looking hopeful in front of a road lined by purple leaf trees.
#LiberateToEducate Cover

#LiberateToEducate

The Youth Justice Project wants Durham Public Schools to end the school-to-prison pipeline by removing police, ending exclusionary discipline, liberating the school environment, implementing culturally relevant curriculum, and establishing mental health spaces and safe spaces for LGBTQIA+ youth at every school.

The over-policed school atmosphere can initiate, rather than alleviate, misbehavior by increasing anxiety, alienating students, creating a sense of mistrust between peers and forming adversarial relationships with school officials.

We want a liberated school environment where students from marginalized communities have the freedom to determine their educational experience while feeling safe, loved, and supported.

#CounselorsNotCops Wake County

Students, parents and community members are united in the call to remove all school resource officers (SROs) from Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) schools. Instead of policing students, WCPSS must fully implement a Peacebuilder Program that employs community “Peacebuilders” in every school to build positive relationships with students, implement restorative practices and peacefully address interpersonal conflicts.

Counselors Not Cops Logo Yellow

Improving School Dignity & Safety

As it does in cities and towns across the country, over-policing of Black and Brown communities persists within school settings. The presence of law enforcement, or school resource officers (SROs), at schools fuels the school-to-prison pipeline and our system of mass incarceration. In 2019, members of the Youth Justice Project’s Youth Steering Committee (YSC) released a series of recommendations for Durham Public Schools and the Durham County Sheriff’s Office regarding school policing.

Youth Justice News

Warnings About Police in Schools: SCSJ Releases Memo to Fayetteville City Officials 

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (July 10, 2024) — Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ) recommends Fayetteville keeps its schools police-free in a memo addressing the city’s proposal to replace school resource officers with members of Fayetteville Police Department ahead of a Thursday City Council vote.  After the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office pulled its officers out of its…

Read More Warnings About Police in Schools: SCSJ Releases Memo to Fayetteville City Officials 
School Resource Officer standing in an empty school hallway
Justice System Reform

SCSJ Will Release New Report in Early 2022 On Ending Youth Criminalization in North Carolina

In early 2022, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice will release Invest In Our Children, Invest In our Youth: Ending Youth Criminalization in North Carolina. This report calls for a reinvestment in community-led alternatives that support and nourish young people and their communities. Throughout America’s history, Black, Latine, and Indigenous youth have been traumatized by…

Read More SCSJ Will Release New Report in Early 2022 On Ending Youth Criminalization in North Carolina