For immediate release
Community-Led Initiative in Anaheim to Tackle Problem by Lifting Parent and Student Voices through “Community School” Model
BERKELEY / ANAHEIM – Schools are the context where Orange County residents are least likely to experience a sense of belonging, according to a survey conducted prior to the 2022-23 academic year by the Othering and Belonging Institute at University of California, Berkeley (OBI) and Orange County Congregation Community Organization (OCCCO). More concerning, even fewer residents report that schools are a place of comfort, safety, and agency than did in a similar survey two years ago.
The summer 2022 countywide survey found that nearly two in five respondents (38.8 percent) say that they usually do not feel belonging in their interactions with schools. Just 25 percent feel belonging in schools “always” and 36 percent feel it “most of the time.” Compared to the 61 percent who usually (“always” plus “most of the time”) feel belonging in schools, 63 percent usually feel belonging on the street or in other public places, and 73 percent usually feel belonging in their neighborhoods.
Rates of belonging in relation to schools were largely consistent across race/ethnicity groups, though Asian Americans reported somewhat better experiences (30 percent “always” and 41 percent “most of the time”). There was also a difference by gender identity, in that more women than men feel belonging all or most of the time. (The number of responses from nonbinary or other survey respondents was too small to generalize.) For respondents residing in the city of Anaheim, 47 percent usually do not experience belonging at schools, compared to the 38.8 percent countywide figure.
But by far the most significant divide in experiences of belonging at schools was along lines of household income. Among those respondents earning $80,000 per year or less, almost half (48 percent) usually do not feel belonging in their interactions with schools, compared to just 28.7 percent of those who make more than $80,000.
“A study like this underscores why the Anaheim Intersections Initiative is leading an effort to work with parents and youth to have a seat at the table to transform Anaheim public schools into true community schools,” said Miguel Hernandez, executive director of OCCCO. Together with OC Human Relations, ACCESS CA, Children’s Cause OC, Multi-Ethnic Collaborative of Community Agencies, and Network Anaheim, OCCCO will host a conference for the community to discuss the “community school” model on Saturday, February 25, from 9 am to 2 pm at St. Boniface Church Hall in Anaheim. The conference is free and will include child care and lunch, and is open to the public and the press. Hernandez concluded, “Only by coming together and lifting up the voice of parents, youth, and families will we see a future for our schools in which everyone feels they belong.”
OBI and OCCCO’s survey was administered in late-July and August 2022 to a sample of 1,503 Orange County residents. For the question regarding experiences of belonging, respondents were told, “When people feel a sense of belonging, often that means they feel comfortable, safe, and have a say in the important things happening around them.” They were then asked to say how often they feel this sense of belonging in four different contexts: “your home,” “your neighborhood,” “your school,” and “on the street, parks, libraries, or other public places.” Nearly one third of the overall sample responded “not applicable” to the question regarding schools, indicating that they do not have contact with any school. All survey participants were at least 18 years of age, so the remaining 1,000-plus individuals who responded to the question on schools included some OC students themselves (recent K-12 students and current and recent college and university students), but predominantly parents and guardians of students.
“I’m an immigrant and a parent of six children, and I don’t always feel like I belong everywhere I go. Language is a major barrier for me to participate fully in my children’s school, for example,” said Anaheim resident and parent Juana Martinez. “Belonging in our schools is so important for our children’s success. I think community schools can be a powerful way to strengthen belonging and to overcome the barriers parents face so that all our children can succeed.”
Finally, although schools were already the place where Orange County residents were least likely to experience belonging in 2020, the 2022 survey revealed a further dip in the two years since then. Whereas in 2020, 34.9 percent of respondents said they usually do not feel belonging, in 2022, that share was 38.8 percent. Notably, this difference is within the margin of the surveys’ sampling error. But the shift is directionally consistent with shifts in Orange County residents’ feelings of belonging across the board. That is, the survey registered decreased experiences of belonging from 2020 to 2022 across all four contexts about which respondents were asked (“your home,” “your neighborhood,” “your school,” and “on the street, parks, libraries, or other public places”).