Category: school-to-prison pipeline

Mississippi school system slammed by DOJ report

By Alan Bean

This article from Colorlines is based on a Department of Justice report on Meridian, Mississippi’s school to prison pipeline  released in August.  Here’s a brief summary from that report:

The department’s investigation showed that the agencies have helped to operate a school-to-prison pipeline whereby children arrested in local schools become entangled in a cycle of incarceration without substantive and procedural protections required by the U.S. Constitution.  The department’s findings show that children in Lauderdale County have been routinely and repeatedly incarcerated for allegedly committing school disciplinary infractions and are punished disproportionately, without constitutionally required procedural safeguards.  Children have also been arrested at school for offenses as minor as defiance.   Furthermore, children on probation are routinely arrested and incarcerated for allegedly violating their probation by committing minor school infractions, such as dress code violations, which result in suspensions.   The department’s investigation showed that students most affected by this system are African-American children and children with disabilities.

The report claims that school officials in Meridian frequently refused to supply the federal investigators with important information (more on that in the article below). (more…)

Listening to Broderick’s aunt

patterson outburstBy Alan Bean

Americans of a conservative bent are having a hard time with the Trayvon Martin saga.  The story suggests serious flaws in our system of criminal justice.  The conservative mind has no problem with George Zimmerman stalking a young man he considered suspicious and isn’t troubled by the fact that Zimmerman killed an unarmed man yet wasn’t arrested. 

But there are also narratives that those of the liberal persuasion tend to ignore because they reinforce the punitive consensus.  Take, for instance, the story of  Broderick Patterson, an eighteen year old Black male who was recently sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Eric Forrester, a seventeen year old White male.  The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has been following the story for the past two years.

The Black-on-White nature of the slaying conforms to a familiar pattern, but this case goes deeper than that.  When the sentence was handed down, young Broderick directed a profane tirade (see the article below) at everyone associated with his sad fate.  The jury received the brunt of his venom. (more…)

Police arrest 6-year-old in Georgia

In case you missed it in the news last week, police in Georgia handcuffed and arrested Salecia Johnson, 6, for throwing a tantrum at school.  The girl, a kindergarten student at Creekside Elementary, was taken to a local police station in a squad car.  She was later released and the charges were dropped.  This story is an unfortunate example of how zero-tolerance policies can lead to extreme discipline practices and the criminalization of youth.  Salecia’s case highlights school-to-prison pipeline issues and the need for more positive discipline practices in schools.  Check out the Washington Post article below for more details.  MWN

Just as Fairfax County schools is considering major changes to its much-maligned disciplinary policies, a story about a Georgia 6-year-old suggests that zero-tolerance policies remain entrenched across the country — and can lead to evermore bizarre scenarios.

In this instance, a little girl named Salecia Johnson had what seems to be a torrential tantrum in her elementary school class. She apparently threw books and toys, tore at wall hangings and threw a shelf that hit her principal in the leg, according to the Associated Press.

A school official called the police. Yes, the police.

The police arrived. An officer pulled out a pair of handcuffs. He snapped them on the girl’s pint-sized wrists.

Police later told the AP that policy mandates they handcuff everyone who is arrested, regardless of age.

Those policy-following police then put Salecia in a squad car and drove her to the local police station. There, they gave her a soda and decided against not charging her with a crime.

Oh, the humanity. (more…)

Criminal Justice Reform and Schools

By Sofia Rasmussen

In the wake of the Columbine shootings, the Westside Middle School massacre and other violent incidents within America’s schools in the late 1990s, there has been a heightened awareness of the importance of safety within a school and university setting.  According to the National Institute of Justice, more monitoring and awareness of the issue has, at least by one measure, been successful: by 2005, violent crimes, homicides and thefts within schools had all markedly decreased nationwide.  It is worth noting that cyber crimes such as attacks on a school’s computer network or attempted hacks on internet school initiatives such as online PhD degree programs, are on the rise.

However, this statistical decline is not the only side to the story. Recently, several new studies, which are highlighted within Radley Balko’s article for the Huffington Post, suggest that the methods used for suppressing crime may be overly intrusive. For example: a higher proportion of people under the age of 23 are going to prison than ever before. The statistics are overwhelming: in the United States, one in three youths will be arrested prior to the age of 23. Additionally, the number of law enforcement personnel assigned solely to schools has increased by 37 percent between 1997 and 2007 and it is believed that the number of arrests that have originated in schools has also risen significantly in the past ten to twenty years. The result has been a situation where many schools have abandoned their duty to educate and treat difficult children.

Former narcotics cop: “End the drug war, spend money on schools instead.”

In the New York Times opinion piece below, former narcotics cop Neill Franklin discusses the need to end mass incarceration and the failed war on drugs. Franklin, now the executive director for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, was a police officer for 34 years with the Maryland State Police and the Baltimore Police Department. Alan and I had the pleasure of hearing Mr. Franklin speak at the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference this February. MWN

Spend Money on Schools Instead

by Neill Franklin

If we have any hope of healing the deep wounds of race in this country, we’ve first got to stop the bleeding caused by mass incarceration and the other ill effects of the failed “war on drugs.”

Thanks to our ramped up “war on drugs,” when I walk in my old neighborhood I see houses where one or both parents are behind bars or on probation or parole. It didn’t use to be that way.

Our prohibition policies, and the “us vs. the man” mentality they have caused in our communities, have badly damaged how young black men are perceived — and not just by white people. As an African-American narcotics cop in Baltimore, even I fell victim to fear and apprehension when I encountered a group of black teenagers on the street. Making drugs like marijuana illegal has made them incredibly lucrative, and it’s not hard to see why many teenagers choose to enlist in the dope game and play for the chance at moving up the chain and raking in tax-free money rather than donning a McDonald’s uniform.

Even if our drug policies aren’t successful in reducing drug use, they are successful in turning whole communities into criminals. Nearly one in three black men can expect to spend time behind bars. For many black teenagers, getting arrested is a rite of passage.

But it wasn’t always this way. (more…)

End the Pipeline to Prison in Dallas ISD

Friends of Justice is a member of the Coalition for Education Not Incarceration. The coalition’s efforts focus on ending the school-to-prison pipeline in Dallas ISD. Please see the message below from the coalition and consider signing the pledge in support of a Dallas ISD Resolution in Support of Fair and Equitable School Discipline Practices. MW

End the Pipeline to Prison in Dallas ISD
CONTACT: Allison Brim (214) 455-9115

Dear Friends:

When such a high percentage of children end up incarcerated instead of educated, it is time to challenge ourselves to find real solutions. Every child deserves the right to learn in a nurturing environment, but instead, DISD disciplinary measures set our kids up to fail.

The Coalition for Education Not Incarceration is fighting for positive solutions instead of our schools using juvenile and criminal justice systems to correct student behavior.

SIGN THE PETITION to End the Pipeline to Prison in Dallas ISD.

Take for example the story of Mr. Stephen King: His son is a senior in High School and a special needs student who cannot read. During a class assignment his teacher asked him to read aloud, and sadly he could not. After feeling ashamed and embarrassed his son left for home. He was written a ticket for leaving school grounds, an infraction that led to expulsion and time in a juvenile justice center.

“When a kid feels like he cannot learn, and he is kicked out of school, what options are you leaving him?” asks Mr. King.

Concerned parents like Mr. King have been organizing and collecting signatures in support of a Dallas ISD Resolution in Support of Fair and Equitable School Discipline Practices. At the next DISD Board Meeting on December 15th, we plan to deliver the signed petitions to Trustees and demand that they take steps to finding a solution.

In addition to appearing at the board meeting on December 15th, we will continue to draw public attention to the gravity of student criminalization. This Thursday, December 8th, concerned parents, clergy, and community members will form a “Human Chain” interlocking arms to symbolically block our children from being thrust through the pipeline to prison.

DISD can no longer ignore the necessity for real change. With your support of the resolution, and a strong community presence at the December 15th board meeting, we can end the pipeline to prison in Dallas schools.

Sign the petition and stand with us.

The Coalition for Education not Incarceration is made up of Texas Organizing Project, Dallas Peace Center, Friendship West Baptist Church, St Luke “Community” United Methodist Church, Paradise Missionary Baptist Church, NAACP, LULAC, Friends of Justice, Center on Communities and Education, CitySquare, People’s Lunch Counter, and Malcolm X Grass Roots Dallas Chapter.

“Education under arrest: The case against police in schools”

By Melanie Wilmoth

A recent report published by the Justice Policy Institute (JPI) reveals that punitive approaches to student discipline do little to curb violence and crime in schools.

JPI points out that the adoption of punitive discipline policies (such as “zero tolerance” policies) in the 1990s led to dramatic increases in the presence of law enforcement in schools:

 “In order to enforce zero tolerance policies, there was a concurrent increase in surveillance and security measures in schools that included metal detectors, locker checks, security cameras, and law enforcement or security personnel. For example the regular presence of security guards increased 27 percent between 1999 and 2007.”

Rather than letting school administrators handle discipline problems, schools are increasingly turning to school resource officers (SROs). Essentially, SROs are law enforcement officers who work in schools:

“SROs are typically accountable first to the police department and then to the school, which might pay part of an SRO’s salary or administrative costs. Nonetheless, a handbook for recruiting and retaining SROs, says that an SRO can overrule a school administrator who wants to prevent the arrest of a student.”

Although SROs are trained in law enforcement, there is no policy requiring SROs to be trained to work with students. (more…)

Racial gap in school suspensions widens

A report released by the National Education Policy Center, sheds light on the growing racial gap in school discipline. The report indicates that black students are far more likely to be suspended or expelled from school for minor infractions. As research suggests, students who are removed from school are much more likely to become involved in the juvenile justice system. In turn, kids who are locked up as juveniles are more likely to be incarcerated as adults. In essence, discipline policies and the disproportionality in school suspensions serve to effectively funnel kids of color through the school-to-prison pipeline. MW

Racial Gap in School Suspensions Widens

Black students are often removed from school for minor infractions, says a new report.

by Joshua R. Weaver

In Mississippi, Wanda Parker’s son was suspended from school after being caught with an iPod Touch, which, she says, administrators mistook for a cellphone. She unsuccessfully pleaded for weeks to get her son admitted back into school. But because of the school district’s zero-tolerance cellphone policy, Parker’s son, who is African American, missed seven weeks of normal instruction and spent 45 days at an alternative school.

School suspensions for nonwhite students in kindergarten through 12th grade have increased by more than 100 percent since 1970, according to a new report. Suspension rates for blacks outgrew those for whites during the same time period, increasing by more than 10 percentage points by 2006, a year in which about a quarter of black students were suspended at least once.

Parker was among a group of parents, administrators, policymakers, judges and academics who convened last week at a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., to discuss the report’s findings, its implications and the ongoing problem of school-discipline disparity.

“These zero-tolerance policies dehumanize schools and make them feel more like a prison than a second home,” Parker says. “My son was shamed and deprived of his education.” (more…)

Texas and the “school-to-prison pipeline”

By Melanie Wilmoth

A recent Washington Post article by Donna St. George sheds light on the increasing criminalization of student discipline in the US and the effect it has on Texas children.

As a result of zero-tolerance policies, schools have been funneling kids from the classroom to the cell-room through what some are calling the “school-to-prison pipeline.” Schools have increasingly turned to ticketing to deal with behavior issues that, in the past, were handled by school administration. It is not uncommon for students to receive school-based tickets for disruptive behavior such as cursing in class, tardiness, truancy, and fighting. Shockingly, a 2010 report by Texas Appleseed indicated that children as young as 6 have received tickets.

St. George points to some equally alarming facts:

[Texas] stands out for opening up millions of student records to a landmark study of discipline, released in July . The study shows that 6 in 10 students were suspended or expelled at least once from seventh grade on. After their first suspension, they were nearly three times more likely to be involved in the juvenile justice system the next year, compared with students with no such disciplinary referrals…Students who have been arrested or appeared in court are more likely to drop out of high school…Dropouts, in turn, are more likely than graduates to be incarcerated or unemployed.

The criminalization of student disciple has become such a prominent problem in the US, that national organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union have made challenging the “school-to-prison pipeline” one of their key issue areas.

Texas students sent from classroom to courtroom

By Donna St. George

SPRING, TEX. — In a small courtroom north of Houston, a fourth-grader walked up to the bench with his mother. Too short to see the judge, he stood on a stool. He was dressed in a polo shirt and dark slacks on a sweltering summer morning.

“Guilty,” the boy’s mother heard him say. (more…)