Web Watch – SchoolsNotJails.com

By Ryan Pintado-Vertner Sep 15, 2001

This crazy world has my optimism against the ropes. Nothing like several years of nonprofit beggary, free trade everything, cops, and now Dubya the Dumb-Ass to make reality pool in the throat.

So when I looked at a pre-release version of the new SchoolsNotJails.com website, it was my creeping pessimism that said, This just can’t be a youth movement site.

I should not have been so doubtful. The youth-led Schools Not Jails movement exploding around Califas is nothing if not innovative. I’ve seen youth organizers turn a flatbed farmworker truck into a mobile hip-hop concert during a march, and even the riot cops had to smile.

Little wonder that the same crew has now produced SchoolsNotJails.com, easily one of the best radical interpretations of dot-comism. The site will quickly become a valuable resource for youth organizers and young activists nationwide, despite its California emphasis.

It boasts multiple chat rooms for youth, tips and education tools for organizers, and informative articles about criminalization, Junior ROTC, high school ethnic studies courses, and other issues facing youth nationwide. For example, I found this bluntly racist quote from an uploaded Junior ROTC training curriculum, as compiled by the American Friends Service Committee: "Fortunately for the Army, the government policy of pushing the Indians farther west then wiping them out was carried out successfully."

Some of the site’s content is too dated, though José Lopez, one of the web designers, assures me this is only for the test phase. And the writing is often too ideological for me, which could also be a turn-off to some teens. But the site passes the researcher test: it has a good search engine!

The group behind SchoolsNotJails.com is Youth Organizing Communities, a primarily Chicano/Latino California-wide youth organization famous for its capacity to shut down a school district with one well-organized walk-out. The website is part of YOC’s multi-pronged approach to indy media, including a youth-run pirate radio station called Killradio and a collaboration with the Los Angeles Independent Media Center.