There’s been lots of talk about the school-to-prison pipeline over the past few years. Lots of people wringing their hands over what to do about kids, particularly Black boys, who leave school early and are eventually funneled in to the U.S. prison system, where as you read this, there are 840,000 Black males.
But what’s being missed, and something that probably needs to be paid close attention to, is the number of suspensions that are given to these boys as early as preschool, which in turn begins the process of funneling them in to a prison system that awaits them and whose talons will forever carve social scars in to their backs, like the welts of so many slavemasters’ whips. So let’s take a look at a few videos that examine this phenomenon that is affecting our youth and preventing their achievement, particularly among Black males.
This report from CNN illustrates what a Mother experienced with the multiple suspensions of her son J.J. — just 3 years old — for basically acting his age.
A U.S. Department of Education report (.pdf) shows that 7,500 kids were suspended from public preschools and that Black students are three times as likely to face the disciplinary measure as White students.
So are schools simply populated with bad kids or are schools places where resources, bureaucracy, and overcrowding are so routine that they set up a foundation for moving straight from a classroom desk to a jailroom cot? This video from the Philadelphia Student Union attempts to answer that question:
What’s funny is how many times a kid can walk in to a school and not find a citadel of learning, but something more like a correctional system, which is run in much the same way with security apparatus and personnel being some of the first things they see when they walk in to a building. “Zero tolerance” rules implemented by under -resourced school systems wind up criminalizing students. This video from the Advancement Project illustrates that point:
When a kid is in an environment where he can be punished by “zero tolerance policies” that are set up by schools who don’t have the resources to deal with youth on an individual basis, he can be kicked out of school and wind up in the streets. With nothing better to do, crime and violence is an attraction for an idle mind. The Marguerite Casey Foundation produced a video that shows this:
What’s worse is how educators in this video from the Youth Rights Project are dumbfounded by the very concept of the school-to-prison pipeline — but at least they recognize it for what it is:
So what are the solutions? How can we break this chain and divert kids from the school-to-prison pipeline? The Georgia Appleseed Center for Law & Justice says that using data and emphasizing best practices can work, and are a sight better than just throwing a misbehaving kid in the street or eventually in to a jail cell.
Madison J. Gray is a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based multimedia journalist specializing in urban issues and criminal justice. He writes for NewsOne on the subject of Black males in America. Follow him on Twitter: @madisonjgray