Our Principles of Practice
Anti-Oppression and Inclusion
SAC seeks to build workplaces, schools and communities that cultivate a deep sense of belonging for all, particularly for people of color, gender-nonconforming people, people with different abilities, returning citizens, undocumented citizens, and others who experience hate and rejection in our world.
SAC believes our common humanity unites us. We recognize how deeply we are all hurt by racism, homophobia, xenophobia, ableism and other violent practices. Those of us with multiple levels of privilege and those most impacted by oppression must be equally invested in creating and facilitating a community that is equitable, human-centered and just. Our liberation is bound together.
SAC celebrates interconnection and diversity. We have a deep commitment to cultural humility and anti-oppressive action. We expressly prohibit discrimination in regard to race, color, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disAbility, religion, veteran status, height, weight, associational preference, or genetic information.
These values show up in our hiring, orientation, training, ongoing supervision, internal dialogue, external dialogue, policies, practices, collaboration and actions.
At SAC, we believe that it’s not enough to be a passive ally. We are an organization striving to be anti-racist, anti-homophobic, anti-xenophobic, anti-ableist, anti-sexist and anti-oppressive. This means we are committed to focused and sustained action to dismantle the beliefs, language, actions, policies and systems that uphold racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, xenophobia and other ways entire groups of people are treated as “less than.” This requires persistent self-awareness, self-criticism, self-examination, and community.
In our internal work, we are committed to ongoing learning about other cultures and experiences, reducing power imbalances and working in partnership with those whose voices too often go unheard. SAC is committed to working, individually and as a team, on examining our own privilege, identifying and addressing the ways racism, homophobia, ableism and other systemically oppressive behaviors show up within ourselves, our organization, and the systems that serve youth. We work to acknowledge our own complicity in oppressive and anti-black policies and structures.
Being an anti-racist, anti-homophobic, anti-able-ist, anti-oppressive organization means cultivating brave spaces where risk-taking is expected, silence is interrupted, and all feel responsible to take accountability for harm with compassion. Feedback need not be perfectly researched and delivered. We are committed to leaning into discomfort, providing ourselves and others grace.
As we work to be brave in our internal work, organizational work and community work, we will be aware of optical allyship and performative activism, committing to genuine change and action with humility.
Rather than expect staff to blindly assimilate into SAC’s culture, we aspire to co-create an evolving, justice-seeking community based on strong, shared values, interdependence, relationships and dialogue. We move at the speed of trust and love, and recognize that a culture rooted in these values takes time, effort, vulnerability and power-sharing.
SAC is committed to partnering with our families and students in ways that build power, honor their expertise, celebrate their differences, amplify their voices and cultivate brave conversations. We are committed to fostering a reflective and evaluative environment in which all cultures and individuals are valued, respected, elevated and continuously reflected upon and learned from. We remain vigilant in uprooting saviorism and challenging the ways systems defer to “professionals.” We continuously seek ways to communicate this commitment and invite ways to transform, creating truly participatory and beloved community.
In our work with schools and communities, we will forge brave conversations and take action that challenges oppressive systems. We will identify, confront and challenge racist, ableist, homophobic, xenophobic and colonizing practices that remain present in schools and youth-serving systems today. As we do this, we will center the voices of our students and families.
SAC is committed to accessible services and being intentional about asking students and their families the best way to communicate with them, the best time to meet and the best place to meet. We are committed to ongoing reflection of our service model to make services as accessible as possible.
In alignment with SAC’s mission, services offered are primarily for low-income families. In efforts to be inclusive and recognize other contributors to school disengagement, SAC offers affordable, fee-based services to those with middle and high incomes.
SAC is committed to a healing justice framework where we holistically respond to generational trauma, violence and oppression by reviving ancestral practices and building new inclusive healing practices to heal ourselves, our agency, our communities and our systems.
Healing Justice is a framework that “identifies how we can holistically respond to and intervene on generational trauma and violence, and to bring collective practices that can impact and transform the consequences of oppression on our bodies, hearts and minds.” (Cara Page, excerpted from Justice Teams Network (https://justiceteams.org/healing-justice/guide))
A Healing Justice Framework is a way in which we can organize and work that allows us to interrupt the systems that continue to cause harm and trauma to our communities. While self-care is important and we continue to work to better care for our individual selves, healing justice further launches our communities into healing — not just surviving, but thriving. Our students, our staff, our communities are born into a society filled with trauma. Resources and supports aren’t always readily available, and when they are, can often be stigmatized and inequitably offered. Our desire is to promote healing, peace, and wholeness to the students, staff, SAC communities and the systems where we work.
SAC’s healing justice framework consists of the following beliefs and values:
- All individuals and communities deserve and are worthy of healing.
- Healing is critical for the sustainability of our work and communities.
- Healing justice requires slowing down, breathing, body awareness, listening, curiosity, intention, compassion, movement and action.
- Healing relies on community care – the interconnectedness of a community to uplift one another. We focus not just on the individual, but the collective.
- Healing justice goes beyond self and community care. It is political and requires us to disrupt and heal the systems that harm, such as the school to prison pipeline.
- Healing looks different for every individual and community. We elevate new and imaginative ways of approaching healing, giving honor and space to an individual’s whole self.
- Healing is a journey, not a destination. We resist the “cure” model and myth of a “perfect” body. We believe disabled people are inherently good as we are.
Commitment to Restorative Practices
SAC is committed to promoting and using restorative practices in its work with students, parents, school staff, community members, and fellow staff members. This includes using both informal and formal processes to proactively build relationships and a sense of community, to prevent conflict and wrongdoing, to address conflict, to problem-solve, and to repair harm when wrongdoing has occurred.
Commitment to Trauma-Responsive Practices
SAC always strives to be trauma responsive in its work with its staff, board, volunteers and families. Our core trauma – responsive beliefs include:
- We believe everyone has the responsibility to help and no one has the right to hurt another, physically or verbally.
- We believe in recognizing and developing the strengths of all students.
- We believe that relational responses are more productive in minimizing challenging behaviors, and improving learning, than are behavioral responses.
- We believe problems are solvable opportunities that facilitate learning.
- We sustain hope and believe healing is possible.
- We believe trauma and stress is stored in the body and needs ways to be released and processed.
- Our commitment to trauma-responsive practice manifest in many ways:
- Being intentional and focused on caring for ourselves with the support of our community.
- Encouraging colleagues (internal and external), students and families to stay committed to self- and community care, supporting them in processing emotions, and respecting boundaries developed to promote care.
- Continually assessing and improving our organization, including our physical space, how we assess students and deliver services, how we treat each other, how we conduct training and staff meetings, etc.
- Starting in a place where strengths are identified, elevated and celebrated.
- Practicing deep listening and avoiding assumptions and judgment.
- Taking time to understand the needs being communicated by behavior.
- Being sensitive to possible triggers, such as loud voices, physical touch, transitions, lack of or the presence of food, discussions of certain topics, even before such triggers are shared.
- Supporting youth and colleagues in creating their own safety and wellness plans.
- Learning, modeling and teaching new coping strategies.
Culture of Community-Centered Philanthropy
We root our fundraising work in anti-oppression, equity and social justice.
We view fundraising as a shared responsibility.
We view fundraising as an opportunity to match the passions and interests of people in the community to the needs we see each day in our work.
We believe all personally benefit from investing in others and in the common good.
We act as ambassadors for Student Advocacy Center, sharing our story, impact and need, while maintaining client confidentiality.
We promote philanthropy and seek out opportunities to support SAC’s mission.
We see ourselves as part of an interconnected community and actively work to build relationships in and support our community.
We respect our donors’ integrity and treat donors as partners, which means cultivating brave conversations, acknowledging the complexity of the work, sustaining transparency, and not adhering to donors’ wishes if it ever comes at the expense of our clients and community.
We foster a sense of belonging in our fundraising work and avoid treating anyone as an “other.” This involves authentic partnership and informed consent with our students/families, as well as thoughtfulness about potential impact, word choice and image choice in our materials to supporters.