A new report by the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge at UCLA Luskin measures the digital divide in American schools, which threatens to undermine the educational achievement of low-income and minority students for years to come. Disparities in access to computers and adequate internet service predate COVID-19 but have deepened since the pandemic’s outbreak, the study found. The analysis used data from the U.S. Census Household Pulse Survey covering the latter part of the 2019-2020 school year, when schools were forced to halt in-person learning. All groups experienced some challenges in providing adequate computer access and internet service for children’s educational purposes, but the difficulties were greatest in Hispanic, Black, low-income and younger households, according to the study. It also found a link between the lack of access to technology and the parents’ level of educational attainment. Researchers are currently assessing data from the start of the 2020-2021 school year to identify lingering disparities. The study, conducted in collaboration with the public interest research group Ong & Associates, aims to guide educators and policymakers in formulating effective programs to ensure a fair and equitable school system. “It is essential for elected officials and business leaders to act now to address the potential long-term social and economic effects of this health crisis,” the report’s authors said. “This is true especially given the added challenge the pandemic places on minority, low-income, less educated and young families trying to educate their children to succeed in the new information age.”
Social Welfare Professor Ron Avi Astor co-authored a paper in the Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research about the importance of including teachers and staff in discussions of school climate and student risk. The paper, “School Staff Members in California: How Perceptions of School Climate are Related to Perceptions of Student Risk and Well-Being,” highlighted the perspectives of school staff members who help shape the environment of their schools. Research has shown that a positive school climate is associated with improved academic achievement and social and emotional outcomes for students. According to Astor and co-authors Gordon Capp and Tamika Gilreath, the current literature on school climate largely overlooks the perspectives of school staff members. They argue that in order to accurately understand school climate and how it influences all school constituents, school climate models need to include viewpoints of school staff members. The team used survey data from the 2013 California School Climate Survey, which included responses from 54,000 teachers, administrators, counselors, nurses, social workers and other school staff members. The researchers used regression models to examine the relationship between school climate and student outcomes. Their results support a staff-focused model of school climate, and they found an increased need for training and support associated with higher levels of student risk, bullying and violence. Astor’s team encouraged school stakeholders to pay greater attention to staff perceptions and experiences before implementing interventions to improve school climate. — Zoe Day
The UCLA Luskin Public Policy community came together after the final presidential debate of 2020 to hear insights from an array of experts on the U.S. political landscape: Dean Gary Segura, an authority on polls and other measures of political opinion; Chair Martin Gilens, whose research focuses on political inequality; Professor Mark Peterson, who specializes in health-care policy; Sonja Diaz, executive director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative; and Chad Dunn, director of litigation for the UCLA Voting Rights Project. During the 90-minute Zoom gathering, the speakers assessed the exchange between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, which was deemed a step up from previous matchups, then fielded questions from students and alumni. The conversation touched on the accuracy of polling, the threat of voter intimidation, the electoral pathway to victory for each candidate, and even the risk that the country might veer toward fascism. Unless the vote count is tied up amid irregularities in a single, decisive state — as it was in Bush v. Gore in the 2000 race —Segura said the chance that the election’s outcome will be seriously challenged is small. “Try not to let the demons in your head and the demons from 2016 keep you awake at night,” he advised. The conversation was part of a series of forums designed to bring policy students, alumni, faculty and staff together to share concerns, perspectives and experiences within an informed and supportive community. At the next Policy Forum, on Nov. 5, faculty experts will parse the results of the election.
Assistant Professor of Social Welfare Amy Ritterbusch is part of an international team of researchers working on child rights and well-being under a grant awarded to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). The multi-country study also includes scholars and activists from Sri Lanka, New Zealand, South Africa and Uganda. “This study will advance current scholarship on two topics related to honor – honor as a factor in sustaining violence against children, and honor as a factor contributing to child well-being through children’s social relationships with family, peers and community,” LSHTM researchers said. Drawing from Ritterbusch’s methodological area of expertise, the research will use child-led participatory approaches that will place children’s voices and experiences at the center of the initiative and that will lead adult researchers toward community-driven solutions to violence in their daily lives. Ritterbusch serves as principal investigator of the Uganda country component of the project. “It continues my work on mobilizing street-level solutions to violence against children in the urban margins of Uganda, including a continuation of child-led advocacy against the multiple forms of police brutality that street-connected children and adolescents experience,” she said. Ritterbusch, a human and urban geographer, has led social-justice-oriented participatory action research initiatives with street-connected communities in Colombia and Uganda. “As part of the team of principal investigators, I will collectively lead the Uganda site of this multi-country study with the street-connected youth researchers I have been working with since 2015 in Kampala,” Ritterbusch said.
The California Chapter of the American Planning Association honored the UCLA Luskin Urban Planning program with this year’s Landmark Excellence Award, a high accolade in the field of urban planning. Marking its 50th year, UCLA Urban Planning was recognized at the organization’s 2020 annual conference, held online Sept. 14-16. The awards jury acknowledged “the remarkable contributions to planning theory and practice that have emerged from UCLA’s top-tier students and faculty.” Over the past half-century, it said, the program has been “a hub of thought-provoking and ground-breaking scholarship in the field of community development, environmental planning, housing, land development, regional and international development, transportation and urban design.” Also winning an APA California Award was Katelyn Stangl MURP ’19, who received an award of merit under the academic category. As part of her master’s capstone, Stangl prepared a study on parking oversupply. With the help of Los Angeles City Planning, L.A. Department of Transportation and the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies, she evaluated entitlements, permits and building plans of over 300 developments in Los Angeles. The findings of her research can contribute to making Los Angeles and other cities more walkable, less polluted and better designed by removing the incentives to produce unneeded parking oversupply. APA California is a network of practicing planners, citizens and elected officials committed to urban, suburban, regional and rural planning in the California.
“The convergence of stress from the pandemic with increased firearm and alcohol sales creates a hazardous situation for those at risk of suicide,” cautioned Professor of Social Welfare Mark S. Kaplan, co-author of a correspondence in the latest volume of The Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. Kaplan and a team of researchers from around the United States responded to recent research suggesting an increase in alcohol-related suicides due to the economic decline related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Noting previous co-authored research, Kaplan and his colleagues wrote that “alcohol ingestion itself (and especially acute alcohol intoxication) might be a key risk factor for suicide during and shortly after economic contractions.” The unemployment rate during the current pandemic could exceed that of the Great Depression of the 1930s, especially among socially disadvantaged groups, they point out in the journal published by the Rutgers Center of Alcohol Studies. “Particularly relevant to the economic contraction related to COVID-19, we found that suicide rates were most closely associated with rising poverty. These findings suggest that more than individual-level economic factors are at play in influencing suicide risk; place-level economic shocks also matter,” they noted. Kaplan and his team cite the increase of alcohol sales during a time of physical distancing when people may be becoming intoxicated in isolation. They also noted that the current situation could provide opportunities for suicide prevention. Experts in the field suggest increasing alcohol taxes, limiting times for alcohol sales, reducing the density of alcohol outlets and increasing access to treatment for people with substance use disorders.
“Walls, Cages, and Family Separation: Race and Immigration Policy in the Trump Era,” a new book co-authored by Associate Professor of Public Policy Chris Zepeda-Millán and University of Washington Associate Professor Sophia Jordan Wallace, takes a closer look at the evolution of U.S. immigration policy leading up to and during the presidency of Donald Trump. Published by Cambridge University Press, “Walls, Cages, and Family Separation” examines the “deeply racist roots” of U.S. immigration policy, which have been exacerbated by the Trump administration’s racially charged rhetoric and policies, including the border wall, migrant family separation and child detention measures. Zepeda-Millán and Wallace point to Trump as the “most blatantly anti-Latino and anti-immigrant president in modern American history” and examine the factors motivating his support base. Their research shows that resentment and fear among whites who feel culturally threatened by Latinos motivates them to support Trump’s immigration policies. They examine how support for immigrant detention and the wall has shifted over the duration of Trump’s presidency, as well as the stereotypes and misinformation that play a role in public perception of immigrants and immigration policy. While Trump’s immigration policies have been widely criticized and are unpopular with many Americans, Zepeda-Millán and Wallace argue that Trump is relying on his ability to “politically mobilize the most racially conservative segment of whites who back his draconian immigration enforcement measures” in his bid for reelection. “Walls, Cages, and Family Separation” is Zepeda-Millán’s second book, following his first release, “Latino Mass Mobilization: Immigration, Racialization, and Activism.”
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