April 12: Understanding the School to Prison Pipeline 101

This is a wonderful opportunity for the Chicagoland community!


Pre-Register HERE

The trend of harsh school discipline practices such as suspension, expulsions, and zero tolerance policies in public schools do more to increase student involvement in the criminal punishment system than to correct or curb behavior. Research suggests that when students are suspended or expelled, the likelihood that they will repeat a grade, not graduate, and/or become involved in the juvenile justice system increases significantly. In Chicago, Black students and children with special education needs are suspended and expelled at particularly high rates.


Join Mariame Kaba, Director of Project NIA, for “Understanding the STPP,” an introductory workshop about the impact of school discipline policies and solutions to dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline (STPP). Participants will leave the workshop with an understanding of Chicago-specific school discipline data and an overview of how the STPP operates. This is an INTRODUCTORY workshop appropriate for people who do not have…

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One thought on “April 12: Understanding the School to Prison Pipeline 101

  1. Thank you for allowing me this forum to weigh-in on this very important and highly sensitive issue of troubled- student discipline. Before I do so, please note that I love of education, that I greatly esteem teachers and principals, and I sincerely believe students are our future and what we say and do to our students today–they will say and do to us in society. Also, I am American of Mexican descent, and I grew up and attended a predominately Black and Hispanic school system.

    To speak to this issue of student discipline with a vision in mind requires some foundation of knowledge and facts which may not be pleasant, but are important to our objective sensibility nonetheless. For example, Black Culture vs. Black Politics. Ordinary black people have been sold on the importance of electing blacks to high public office. For several decades, blacks have held significant political power, in the form of being mayors and dominant forces on city councils in major cities such as Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Washington, Memphis, Tenn., Atlanta, Baltimore, New Orleans, Oakland, Calif., Newark, N.J., and Cincinnati. In these cities, blacks have held administrative offices such as school superintendent, school principal and chief of police. Plus, there’s the precedent-setting fact of there being 44 black members of Congress and black president.

    What has this political power meant for the significant socio-economic problems faced by a large segment of the black community? Clearly, it has done little or nothing for academic achievement; the number of black students scoring proficient is far below the national average. The political and education establishment tells us that the solution lies in higher budgets, but the fact is that some of the worst public school districts have the highest spending per student. Washington, D.C., for example, spends more than $29,000 per student and scores at nearly the bottom in academic achievement.

    Then, there’s this: Each year, roughly 7,000 — and as high as 9,000 — blacks are murdered. Ninety-four percent of the time, the murderer is another black person. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, between 1976 and 2011, there were 279,384 black murder victims. Contrast this with the fact that black fatalities during the Korean War (3,075), Vietnam War (7,243) and wars since 1980 (about 8,200) total about 18,500. Young black males have a greater chance of reaching maturity on the battlefields than on the streets of Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Oakland, Newark and other cities. “Black political power” and massive city budgets have done absolutely nothing to ameliorate this problem of “black insecurity.”

    Most of the problems faced by the black community have their roots in a “black culture” that differs significantly from the black culture of yesteryear. Today only 35 percent of black children are raised in two-parent households, but as far back as 1880, in Philadelphia, 75 percent of black children were raised in two-parent households—and it was as high as 85 percent in other places. Even during slavery, in which marriage was forbidden, most black children were raised with two biological parents. The black family managed to survive several centuries of slavery and generations of the harshest racism and Jim Crow, to ultimately become destroyed by the welfare state…acceptance of the entitlements of government. The black family has fallen victim to the vision fostered by some “intellectuals” that, in the words of a liberal sociology professor in the 1960s, “it has yet to be shown that the absence of a father was directly responsible for any of the supposed deficiencies of broken homes.” The real issue to these intellectuals “is not the lack of male presence but the lack of male income.” That suggests that fathers can be replaced by a welfare check. Oh yeah? The weakened black family gives rise to problems such has high crime, predation, and other forms of anti-social behavior.

    The cultural problems that affect many black people are challenging, but “incorrectly” attributing those problems to racism and racial discrimination, an “improper” need for more political power, and a “misguided” need for greater public spending–which condemns millions of blacks to the degradation and despair of the welfare state and generational dependence—blacks must not accept.

    Now, how can we expect our students to act decent human “be-ings” if some of our teachers and even school administrators are behaving like criminals? Yup, Philadelphia’s schoolteachers have joined public-school teachers in cities such as Atlanta, Detroit, Los Angeles, Columbus, New York and Washington in changing student scores on academic achievement tests. Teachers have held grade fixing parties, sometimes wearing rubber gloves to hide fingerprints. In some cases, poorly performing students were excused from taking exams to prevent them from dragging down averages. As a result of investigations, a number of schoolteachers and administrators have been suspended, fired or indicted by states attorneys general.

    Most of these cheating scandals have occurred in predominantly black schools across the nation. Very often, teachers must deal with an impossible classroom atmosphere in which many, if not most, of the students are disorderly, disobedient, and alien and hostile to the education process. Many students pose a significant safety threat. The latest statistics available, published by the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, in a report titled “Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2012,” tell us that nationwide between 2007 and 2008, about 145,100 public-school teachers were physically attacked by students, and another 276,700 were threatened with injury.

    Should any of this criminal behavior be tolerated? Should unruly students be able to halt the education process? And, a question particularly for black people: Are we in such good educational shape that we can afford to allow some students to make education impossible? A report supported in part by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, titled “Reducing Suspension among Academically Disengaged Black Males” (http://tinyurl.com/my95jh3), suggests a “tolerance” for disruptive students.

    In the 1950’s and 60’s, no student would have raised their voice to a teacher–much less cursed or assaulted one. Heck, I recall calling my dad to come to the school to straighten out the Principal for swatting me. He came. But the only one my dad straightened out was ME! I got a beating I’ll never forget. One has to wonder why black leaders accept behavior that never would have been tolerated by their parents and teachers. Back then, to use foul language or assault a teacher or any other adult would have resulted in some form of corporal punishment in school, at home or both. Today such discipline would have a teacher or parent jailed. That, in turn, means there is little or no meaningful sanction against unruly or “criminal” behavior.

    No one argues that yesteryear’s students were angels. Where I grew up, students who posed severe disciplinary problems were removed. There were schools for unruly boys, and others for girls. Some people might respond: But what are we going to do with the students kicked out? Whether or not there are resources to help them is not the issue. The critical issue is whether they should be permitted to make education impossible for students who are capable of learning. It’s a policy question similar to: What do you do when you have both drunken drivers and sober drivers on the road? The first order of business is to get the drunken drivers off the road. Whether there are resources available to help the drunks is, at best, a secondary issue.

    How do we bring our kids back to school and to the love of learning? How do we assist our teachers find fulfillment in their profession? And how do we as citizens feel good about contributing to our community? There was a fine line between respect and fear in our past that parents and children (not only blacks but all people) understood and adhered to when it came to education and authority figures; 2) Teachers need not only our help but our respect in their classroom and at home–and that does not necessarily mean more money per se, but rather CHOICE whether that is in the form of a voucher or a parent in the classroom of their child–to ensure student behavior is at least one thing teachers need not worry about; and 3) The education of our children is not something that can be “molded” or legislated by government from Washington, D.C., rather an obligation of loving-kindness that must be “unfolded” by parents and teachers in our schools.

    Thank you.

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