Mississippi’s School to Prison Pipeline

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Colorlines recently published “The Shocking Details of a Mississippi School-to-Prison Pipeline,” which gives readers a peak into the serious injustice happening in the state. Check out an excerpt below:

Among the infractions that landed Green, who is black, in juvenile detention were talking back to a teacher, wearing long socks and coming to school without wearing a belt. He was behind bars for stretches of time as long as two weeks, and the real rub, his mother Gloria said, is that weekends didn’t count as days served. A 10-day suspension stretched to 14 actual days; time for Meridian juvenile justice officials apparently stopped on weekends. All that back and forth out of school and in juvenile took a real toll on Green’s education, and he was held back from the eighth grade.

“It was mind-boggling,” Gloria Green said. “My son loved school and to be kicked out as much as he was, one year he just couldn’t catch up.”

“We did everything we know to do. I went over to the school and got make-up work, and he still failed two subjects and at that point I didn’t know which way what my child was going to go.”

“We talk about the school to prison pipeline and it’s often an abstract thing,” said Shakti Belway, an attorney who worked closely with families on the Meridian case for the Southern Poverty Law Center. “But here it is literally happening over ridiculous, minor charges.” Indeed, children as young as elementary school students have been taken directly from school and forced to serve school suspensions inside a jail cell. In its complaint, the DOJ charged the city’s police department with operating a de facto “taxi service” shuttling students away from school and into youth jails.

In parts of Mississippi, the extreme measures to curb minor infractions in schools are labeling youth and putting them on a path to confinement. As educators, we must be thoughtful in how we invest children in school policies in order to create a positive learning environment.

Reading the stories highlighted in this piece bring me back to my childhood experiences in school. I’ve had family members and peers become victims of the judicial system at early ages. We must support children, not use excessive force to encourage them to want to learn at school. Effective relationship building by partnering with mentorship organizations, an appropriate ladder of consequences, strong school wide culture initiatives and student support staff are just a few ways schools can meet the needs of all students.

In my experience, I learned that my most challenging students are the ones who need the most love and guidance. Their disobedience is a cry for help. Spend more time with them and steer them in the right direction because shoving students into the judicial system is a sign that we’ve given up on them. We cannot give up on our kids. The kids are our future.

Read more about what’s happening in Mississippi http://m.colorlines.com/archives/2012/11/school_prison_pipeline_meridian.html.

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