A Single Story That’s Changing Systems, CCRJP hosts Documentary Screening of “On These Grounds”

In continuation of CCRJP’s RJ2 series – an array of events and conversations that center the intersections of restorative justice and racial justice (RJ2) – we partnered with Represent Justice to view the documentary “On These Grounds.” Event attendees viewed the documentary before attending a community conversation that took place in Denver, CO as well as virtually. The conversation was facilitated by a team of youth who work with Words Beyond Walls, a youth-led healing project that practices violence intervention and interruption.

“On These Grounds” uncovers a story of a high school student named Shakara, a black girl who was assaulted and ultimately arrested by a school resource officer (SRO) after a disputed misunderstanding over accommodations with her teacher. This incident was captured on video and became a viral clip which catalyzed a greater amount of attention towards dismounting the school-to-prison pipeline and the ways it is acutely affecting black girls in school.

Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault
“Vivian Anderson and Words Beyond Walls facilitate a conversation with attendees at CCRJP’s recent RJ2 event.”

Shakara’s story highlights the ways schools are increasingly relying on police officers to address school infractions, behaviors that would not be deemed criminal outside the school setting and have historically been addressed by school administrators. The data continues to support the claim that these policies often target students of color, students with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ students, and our communities are seeing hundreds of thousands of young people pushed out of schools and into the carceral system by way of police interactions.

CCRJP’s Guest speaker and Healer-Activist, and a catalyst for elevating this incident into positive action – Vivian Anderson – posed a solution and an alternative to having SROs in schools to address student behavioral change: restorative justice practices. The documentary shows how Shakara’s story ignited the community to change these policies and educate the public on the impacts of SROs in schools. Anderson has helped pave the way for film viewers across the US to view the topic through a restorative lens, making sure to account for all stakeholders and to engage in deep truth-telling while also holding each person with dignity and respect. CCRJP was fortunate to have Vivian at the event, helping WBW lead a community conversation.

The audience was cross-sectional and inter-generational: high school students, former and current SROs, parents, RJ practitioners, Sheriffs, systems-impacted individuals, and community members all came together for the conversation. Many of those who shared in the dialogue had lived experience and were working at a state and national level to stop police in schools. Through public discourse such as this, we continue to influence policy changes.

To support our community in learning more about these topics, below are some resources to encourage action in changing the school-to-prison pipeline.

  1. Use people-first language: Use people-first language when describing someone, we now know that using words like “felon”, “offender”, and “criminal” can promote negative stereotypes and create biases against systems-impacted individuals.
  2. Vote!: Learn more about supporting systems-impacted individuals with your ballot this election cycle and why it’s important to support reform-minded prosecutors.
  3. Stay informed on policies: You can learn more about the policies Represent Justice has called attention to and advocate to your policy-makers by sharing stories and having dialogue that promotes policy changes that humanize all kinds of lived experiences and people.
  4. Contact your representative: Urge congress to support the Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act. Learn more about the bill here.
  5. Support leaders doing the work: You can learn more about Vivian’s work at EveryBlackGirl, Inc. Vivian is the Founder and Executive Director at EBG and she is an engaging and experienced speaker to consider for your next event regarding systems-change.
  6. Get serious about using restorative practices in schools: If you are connected to k-12 schools in any fashion, support the implementation of using restorative practices to address student behavior and culture change. Here is an Introduction to School-Based Restorative Justice Guide.
  7. Donate and get involved: Represent Justice has many initiatives that address systems-change and support systems-impacted people. You can learn more about donating and taking action on their website.
“Alicia Garcia, Vivian Anderson, and the team from Words Beyond Walls giving their bright energy and light!”


We had many partners come together to support this important community conversation. Words Beyond Walls (WBW) treated the topic with care, engaging in substantial pre-work to emotionally and mentally prepare to discuss the complexity of the issue. We’d like to thank everyone at the event who made space and understanding for the logistical difficulties at hand when engaging a hybrid event. We are thankful to have hosted individuals from across the state of Colorado, and we know that it can take some patience to navigate the two worlds – in-person and virtual – colliding. CCRJP has deep gratitude for Tonia Fonseca and The Board Life Project who provided amazing Puerto Rican/Cuban food for attendees at the in-person event. A portion of proceeds from The Board Life Project goes towards building community through skateboarding. The Conflict Center donated towards food and provided chairs for everyone to sit comfortably, we thank you. Laundry by Lawrence donated the space for the evening, a critical component to us being able to have the in-person portion of the event. And lastly, we’d like to thank the VP of CCRJP and team member of Circle Corps, Alicia Garcia, for working with WBW, helping plan for the event, and working the microphone that evening. Our arms are wide open with gratitude to all who helped make it happen!

Check Out More Great Articles