It’s not a secret that the pipeline to prison starts in the school system. Suspending and expelling students are the main culprits for this crisis and forces children into the juvenile justice system. When you think about school expulsions and suspensions, you think about students who have committed serious offenses and are a danger to themselves and fellow classmates. However, too often, students are unjustly punished for petty, non-violent behaviors and are suspended, expelled or worse, sent to the juvenile center.
These students ultimately miss out on their education, can become victim to the streets and start on their journey down the pipeline. A lot of students start their criminal record in middle school for carrying scissors in their backpack. Our justice system is designed to suppress their education and options. You cannot get a job with a criminal record and obtaining a GED from an alternative school is not a quality education. Since they can’t work, they resort to other “means” of obtaining money. Then our stop and frisk laws and three strikes rules ensure they will land in their final destination; the private prison industry.
Statistics show there is a positive correlation between low IQ’s and poverty. By taking away these student’s education, we are not helping them become smarter to make wiser decisions; we force them into survival mode because it is harder for them to attain what the educated can gain. Statistics also show that students who are most affected by this pipeline to prison are children of color, Hispanics and those with disabilities.
We must protect our children from gun violence, school shootings and violent behaviors in school. But we also must differentiate bad behavior from violent behavior and protect those who are disparately impacted by laws put in place to control these actions. When people preach that we all need to get out and vote, it’s because people like Betsy Devos oversees our children’s education. Her entire commission seeks to dismantle Obama’s 2014 guidance package. Anurima Bhargava, a CNN journalist, writes that Obama’s administration urged to, “reduce the use of discriminatory and unsafe disciplinary practices against students.” Now, Devo’s commission wants to rescind these laws by supporting “exclusionary discipline” or “allowing school leaders the autonomy to suspend, expel and arrest students as they see fit” Bhargava writes.
Bhargava also states that Black students are three times more likely to be expelled from school than their white counterparts and students with disabilities are two times more likely to be expelled from school as well. They aren’t expelled because they had weapons or assaulted someone, no, it’s because their hair isn’t the “right” texture or they had a cell phone in their possession. Expelling students for petty, non-violent crimes disrupts their education and allows them to fall behind in their studies.
When a school can’t suspend a student, they choose to humiliate them and make them feel inferior. That’s exactly what the referee did to Andrew Johnson by forcing him to cut his hair in front of a crowd of spectators. That was so foul and unnecessary that he is no longer allowed to referee for the district. If his hair was in fact a violation, was it necessary to dehumanize him in front of a crowd of people? Furthermore, why wasn’t this addressed long before the match was set to start? When students are treated this way, they can be setup for bullying which can in turn influence them to become aggressive and fall victim to doing something that will get them expelled from school.
Our minority students are at an educational disadvantage. Their schools aren’t disciplined by teachers and principals, but instead police officers and dogs who are not properly trained to work with our children. Gaining an education in these type of conditions sets our children up for failure. They aren’t privileged to learn Pythagorean theorem, but instead worry about whether they will be arrested by an officer for disrupting a classroom while students in the suburbs are sent to a school counselor.
We must not leave our children behind and we must stand up for them by voting people out who support the pipeline to prison. These laws may appear to be in place to protect students, but history shows the dramatic disparities. Authorities were contacted at least 23 times before Nikolas Cruz actually shot up a school. Meanwhile, our minority students are being sent to authorities for putting their feet on the back of a chair. White privilege and the insanity plea protect non-minority students, while Black and Hispanic children are incarcerated with life sentences. Something is very wrong with this picture and it’s up to us to protect our young students.