(Sacramento – April 23, 2019,) - Today the California State Assembly Committee on Public Safety passed Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer’s (D- South Los Angeles) Assembly Bill (AB) 413, that would address the stigma associated with the label “at-risk youth” by changing it to “at-promise youth” in California’s penal and education laws.
“Our education system has adopted the harmful term “at-risk youth” to label our most vulnerable students. That term connotes negativity and it must be changed,” said Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer Sr. “The label ‘at-risk youth” comes from a mindset of deficit, and focuses on what children lack. As a state, we need to move away from this mentality that tells our children they are likely to fail. We must start referring to our youth as “at-promise” which focuses on a child’s immense potential to succeed in all aspects of life.”
Combating stigma with the use of intentional language has been similarly addressed with individuals in the disabilities community. There is a shared understanding that the words we use to describe people can materially affect the way we treat them.
Various researchers, including sociologists and early childhood educators, argue that the use of negative labels can lead to stigmas and expectations to fail. The negative term “at-risk youth” results in a fixation on that failure and perpetuates a cycle of self-doubt and problematic behaviors. Furthermore, implicit bias enforced by the term “at-risk” can influence the way these students are treated and potentially diminish the resources available to them.
“I am proud of my colleagues who voted for AB 413 to keep AB 413 moving through the legislative process,” said Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer Sr. “Our children are our future and as law makers we must protect them by breaking down the barriers that can be detrimental to their success.”
AB 413 now heads to the Assembly Floor.
Assemblymember Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer, Sr. represents South Los Angeles, Florence-Firestone, Walnut Park, and a portion of Huntington Park. For more information about Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer, Sr., please visit https://a59.asmdc.org/