Education Under Arrest

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duntopright

 

FOLKS ain’t got no right to censuah othah folks about dey habits;
Him dat giv’ de squir’ls de bushtails made de bobtails fu’ de rabbits.
Him dat built de gread big mountains hollered out de little valleys,
Him dat made de streets an’ driveways wasn’t shamed to make de alleys.

We is all constructed diff’ent, d’ain’t no two of us de same;
We cain’t he’p ouah likes an’ dislikes, ef we’se bad we ain’t to blame.
Ef we’se good, we need n’t show off, case you bet it ain’t ouah doin’
We gits into su’ttain channels dat we jes’ cain’t he’p pu’suin’.

But we all fits into places dat no othah ones could fill,
An’ we does the things we has to, big er little, good er ill.
John cain’t tek de place o’ Henry, Su an’ Sally ain’t alike;
Bass ain’t nuthin’ like a suckah, chub ain’t nuthin’ like a pike.

When you come to think about it, how it’s all planned out it’s splendid.
Nuthin’s done er evah happens, ‘dout hit’s somefin’ dat’s intended;
Don’t keer whut you does, you has to, an’ hit sholy beats de dickens,–
Viney, go put on de kittle, I got one o’ mastah’s chickens.

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“In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunities of an education.  Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right that must be made available on equal terms.”

–  Chief Justice Earl Warren, Brown v. Board of Education (1954)

 

The school-to-prison pipeline: an epidemic that is plaguing schools across the nation. Far too often, students are suspended, expelled or even arrested for minor offenses that leave visits to the principal’s office a thing of the past. Statistics reflect that these policies disproportionately target students of color and those with a history of abuse, neglect, poverty or learning disabilities.

Students who are forced out of school for disruptive behavior are usually sent back to the origin of their angst and unhappiness—their home environments or their neighborhoods, which are filled with negative influence. Those who are forced out for smaller offenses become hardened, confused, embittered. Those who are unnecessarily forced out of school become stigmatized and fall behind in their studies; many eventually decide to drop out of school altogether, and many others commit crimes in their communities.

It is difficult to pinpoint the exact reason for the school-to-prison pipeline. Many attribute it to the zero tolerance policies that took form after the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. Others blame educators, accusing them of pushing out students who score lower on standardized tests in order to improve the school’s overall test scores. And some blame overzealous policing efforts. The reasons are many, but the solutions are not as plentiful.

So how bad is the school-to-prison pipeline? See the stats for yourself, leave suggestions, find programs in your local community, take a stance.

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Facts and Statistics:

–  A 2007 study by the Advancement Project and the Power U Center for Social Change says that for every 100 students who were suspended, 15 were Black, 7.9 were American Indian, 6.8 were Latino and 4.8 were white.

–  The same study reports that the U.S. spends almost $70 billion annually on incarceration, probation and parole. This number lends itself to a 127% funding increase for incarceration between 1987-2007. Compare that to a 21% increase in funding for higher education in the same 20-year span.

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–  Based on statistics from the Civil Rights Data Collection (see sources below), in 2009, the Los Angeles Unified School District reported the following numbers for out-of-school suspensions: 62% Hispanic students, 33% Black students, 3% white and 2% Asian. LAUSD also reported that of their expulsions, 67% of Hispanic students and 5% of Black students were not offered educational services. Lastly, 77% Hispanics and 8% of Asian, Black and white students were expelled under zero tolerance policies.

–  The CRDC also shows that in 2009, the West Valley School District in Spokane, WA expelled 20% Black students and 60% white students and offered no educational services. Of those who were expelled, 10% Black students and 60% white students were done so under zero tolerance policies. Those who were referred to law enforcement included 10% Black students and 80% white students. However, Spokane school districts reported a higher number of enrolled white students. West Valley School district consisted of 86% white students and 4% Black students.

 

–  In St. Louis, MO schools, the Normandy School District’s 98% Black student population drew in the following: 100% of all students who received more than one out-of-school suspension, 100% of those who were expelled without educational services and 100% of those who were referred to law enforcement. In Missouri’s Ritenour School District, 67% of Black students vs. 33% white students were referred to law enforcement.

–  New Orleans, LA has numbers equally as staggering. The Orleans Parish School Board’s expulsions under zero tolerance policies were 100% Black, with 67% of their school-related arrests being Black students. The RSD-Algiers Charter School Association had 75% of their expelled students without educational services black. Furthermore, 100% of their expulsions under zero tolerance policies and 100% of their school-related arrests were all Black students.

 

Below are expanded statistics pulled from the Civil Rights Data Collection, with latest results from 2009.

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Among the key findings:

  • Access to preschool. About 40% of public school districts do not offer preschool, and where it is available, it is mostly part-day only. Of the school districts that operate public preschool programs, barely half are available to all students within the district.
  • Suspension of preschool children. Black students represent 18% of preschool enrollment but 42% of students suspended once, and 48% of the students suspended more than once.
  • Access to advanced courses. Eighty-one percent (81%) of Asian-American high school students and 71% of white high school students attend high schools where the full range of math and science courses are offered (Algebra I, geometry, Algebra II, calculus, biology, chemistry, physics). However, less than half of American Indian and Native-Alaskan high school students have access to the full range of math and science courses in their high school. Black students (57%), Latino students (67%), students with disabilities (63%), and English language learner students (65%) also have less access to the full range of courses.
  • Access to college counselors. Nationwide, one in five high schools lacks a school counselor; in Florida and Minnesota, more than two in five students lack access to a school counselor.
  • Retention of English learners in high school. English learners make up 5% of high school enrollment but 11% of high school students held back each year.

As CRDC data indicates the opportunity gap among Americans hurts life-transforming opportunities for children that strengthen and build a thriving middle class. To address these issues, as part of his budget request, President Obama proposed a new initiative called Race to the Top-Equity and Opportunity (RTT-Opportunity), which would create incentives for states and school districts to drive comprehensive change in how states and districts identify and close opportunity and achievement gaps. Grantees would enhance data systems to sharpen the focus on the greatest disparities and invest in strong teachers and leaders in high-need schools.

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State-, district- and school-level data may be viewed at the CRDC website at crdc.ed.gov. For more information on the work of the Office for Civil Rights, click here.

Remember: While it’s easy to think the school-to-prison pipeline only impacts particular students and their respective families, we must remember that our whole society will feel the consequences. Today’s youth are tomorrow’s leaders. And we must remember that we cannot teach a student who is not in school.

 

 

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