From disproportionate suspensions and arrests to miseducation through Eurocentric curriculum and ideologies, black students are victimized by the school to prison pipeline. In our communities, schools are over-policed, and the trajectory of the lives of black children point to a future of incarceration, dependence, and low-quality of life.
In our Clubhouse room, The Understood, we are in the third week of our Crime & Punishment series, where we explored law, corrections, and judicial systems levied against the black community. With several members of the club having personal knowledge and experience in education and law, we unpacked how specific systems attack the most vulnerable of our group: children. That appears to be a pattern in light of the club’s discussion on how music affects black children.
One member of the group who worked in charter schools for five years spoke to the school to prison pipeline’s subtle yet impactful physical manifestations. In the schools where she worked, elementary and middle students were to report to school each day at 7:30 AM and dismissed at 4:00 PM, which gave them little to no exposure to sunlight. After receiving it, students were given about 10-15 minutes to gobble down their lunch. Recess time – if outdoors – was held in a barren open area surrounded by a barbed-wire fence.
The club’s resident psychologist confirmed that these physical practices could take a toll on the mental health of children and condition them to accept this reality as the standard. Conditioning plays a significant role in integrating the school-to-prison pipeline in the black community.
Another major factor is that white women account for the overwhelming racial demographic of teachers in America. According to a statistics report, The State of Racial Diversity in the Educator Workforce in 2011-2012, 82 percent of public-school teachers were white. Administrators and principals comprised a similar number. In high-poverty communities – many of which our children reside – 63% of teachers were white. White teachers serve as gatekeepers for the systems that harm our children. Suspensions and arrests are incredibly high in our schools, indicating a lack of understanding and care for students who, larger societal systems have already victimized.
As the nation undergoes a racial unmasking, it can no longer hide these ills. The central question remains: how do we solve this problem? This week’s Clubhouse room, Part Two of this topic, focused on solutions.
There was a plethora of viable options proposed, from homeschooling, to increasing the number of black teachers (males in particular) to help offset some of the miseducation and misunderstanding resulting in one race of teachers victimizing black students by way of poor policies and systems. White teachers who are not versed in the plight of black children often resort to law enforcement to resolve disputes with students. Having more black male teachers would change the current disciplinary system as students find common ground and even perhaps a similar life experience with those teachers.
Parental involvement and education deemed an immediate solution to the school-to-prison pipeline. Despite the racial demographics of a community, parental involvement is a determining factor in how well individual students perform and the school body’s success. An involved parent coalition pushes the school district for better funding and resources and serves as a deterrent for harmful plans against their children. In our community, however, the education of parents is critical. Some parents are not only unable to assist their children with their academics, but they are also completely unaware of their needs and thus lack an operational plan for their children’s success at school and beyond.
One of our admins, whose approach to the solution comes from an education, corrections, and parental background, added that we need to focus on the “FATHER”. An acronym that guides us to specific areas where investment and building are needed for change. It stands for:
- Real Estate
A more pressing question remains: If the school to prison pipeline was designed to condition and harm black students, are solutions that require us to still work within the system practical?
Last week, a speaker’s poignant reminder that we should be operating on fundamental principles of black consciousness touched on the solution more holistically. The basic principles rooted in respect, trust, loyalty, knowledge of self, and more will help us determine how we move, teach our children, and stop relying on the dominant society to do right by us.
The school-to-prison pipeline is the pathway that leads our children from the school building to the criminal justice system. While the solutions to draw black students out of it are plenty, one thing for sure is that hesitation in our action plan will cause exponentially more harm. Whatever we understand must be done, our children’s lives depend on it.
Join us on Sunday, December 5 at 4 pm EST as The Understood Club discusses all-white juries and the return of Jim Crow.