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CI: Ending the School to Prison Pipeline

October 08, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Education, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

 

Ending the School to Prison Pipeline
by nancy a heitzeg

This week marks the  5th Annual National Week of Action Against School Pushout October 4-11, 2014, brought to you by Dignity in Schools. On-going actions where ever you are can be found here.

CI has written extensively on the school to prison pipeline over the years. Some key selections include:

Given the new Federal Guidelines which call for suspension/expulsion as the last resort. there has recently been movement towards disrupting the pipeline. But continued pressure is required still that became crystal clear again last week. The Coalition for Critical Change ,Twin Cities held a community forum on the stpp with the candidates for Minneapolis School Board. Even given the advertized agenda, it was difficult to fully engage the necessary questions regarding a  focus on school policy ( not anthologizing  families of color), bans on suspensions that go beyond the 2nd grade, removing police from the schools, and promoting transfornative justice models that seek to address systems rather than putting the onus only on youth.

Much gratitude to Dignity in Schools and to all  those who do the work every day.

Highlights form last years’ National Week of Action Against School Pushout below.

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CI: “PriSchool” ~ Architecture of Oppression

September 10, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Education, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

 

“PriSchool” ~ Architecture of Oppression

by Kay Whitlock and Nancy A Heitzeg

The thesis looks to address the outflow of prisoners and combat the challenges of recidivism.  This is done through the implementation of a new typology of prison facility that symbiotically merges the program of incarceration and education.  The prison would be a prison for non-violent drug offenders.  The school would be a school of criminology and criminal justice.  Glen J. Santayana

It’s a prison! And a school! What could possibly be more American in the age of “colorblindness,” privatization and austerity?

Looking like a gigantic set of stacked animal cages and set off  by a dry moat (a new urban iteration of the “ha ha wall”), the so-called (and coyly named)  “PriSchool” is perhaps the most obviously (perhaps unintentionally)  grotesque example of the kind of proposed criminal legal system “reform” being advanced these days. One need not question Glen Santayana’s presumably good intentions in order to challenge the design, and assumptions on which it appears to be based.

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Maybe the “stacked animal cages” look isn’t entirely coincidental. The “school” part of the design is twofold: vocational skills – carpentry, cooking, mechanics, beautyshop/barbering, etc. – will be taught to prisoners who, in turn, may obtain a GED and will be studied by “interact with” non-inmate students  pursuing knowledge at the PriSchool’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. In time, former prisoners may be hired as snitches consultants to criminal investigations.

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CI: Decriminalizing School Discipline

February 12, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Education, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex, What People are Doing to Change the World

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

Decriminalizing School Discipline: How to Stop the School to Prison Pipeline at The Source
by nancy a heitzeg

Last week, I had the privilege of participating on this panel at the American Bar Association Midyear Meeting: “The School-to-Prison Pipeline: What are the Problems? What are the Solutions?” The event was jointly sponsored by the ABA’s Coalition on Racial and Ethnic Justice, the Criminal Justice Section and the Counsel for Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Educational Pipeline. Panelists included the Reverend Janette C. Wilson of RainbowPUSH; Dr. Artika Tyner, a clinical law professor and diversity director at the University of St. Thomas School of Law; Mariame Kaba of Project NIA and Prison Culture; Robert Saunooke, chair of the ABA’s Tribal Courts Council, and Julie Biehl, Director of Children and Family Justice Center, Northwestern University Law School.

The panel was a call for lawyers, educators, everyone to take whatever actions they could to interrupt the school to prison pipeline. In particular, emphasis was placed on the role of the new Federal Guidelines on School Climate and Discipline and the opportunity offered now to move away from decades of zero tolerance. The piece below, written for Praeger/ABC-CLIO Publishing’s on-line series Enduring Questions, highlights the role of zero tolerance policies and police in the schools, both key policy cornerstones in the school to prison pipeline.

Over the years, Criminal InJustice has written much on this topic, in part, with the  hope that this may be the a pathway into a larger social critique of the prison industrial complex which impels it. It has been my experience that however deep the commitment some have to “law and order”, to the harsh policing and punishment of adults, the school to prison pipeline gives many pause. There is something so shocking, so fundamentally unfair about the notion of children, increasingly young,  being policed in the pursuit of an education, being criminalized for mere childish misbehavior. It is so unfair it can sometimes shine a light back on the entire system that it is designed to feed.

So let it now.

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CI: Feds Finally Take Action to End School to Prison Pipeline

January 15, 2014 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Education, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex, What People are Doing to Change the World

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

Feds Finally Take Action to End School to Prison Pipeline
by nancy a heitzeg

Last week, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division responded to more than a decade of data-driven critique of zero tolerance policies, the criminalization of education, and the creation of a school to prison pipeline. The Departments jointly issued extensive new guidelines urging schools to abandon zero tolerance policies, reduce a “policing” approach, and rely instead on restorative justice .

Persistent and consistent disparities in rate of suspensions and expulsions are the heart of the official critique. As the New York Times notes in “The Civil Rights of Children“:
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“The guidance documents included striking data on racial inequities. For example, African-American students represent only 15 percent of public school students, but they make of 35 percent of students suspended once, 44 percent of those suspended more than once and 36 percent of those expelled. Statistical information does not in itself prove discrimination. But research has shown that black students do not engage in more serious or more frequent misbehavior than other students.

The treatment of disabled students should be a source of national shame: They represent 12 percent of students in the country, but they make up 25 percent of students receiving multiple out-of-school suspensions and 23 percent of students subjected to a school-related arrest.”

This is consistent with a growing national concern over the school to prison pipeline.  The U.S. Department of Education and the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice committed in 2012 to addressing disparities in the school suspensions and expulsions as a civil rights matter, including filing suit against the State of Mississippi for operating a school to prison pipeline in Meridian. In December of 2012 the first ever Congressional hearings on the school to prison pipeline were held and featured expert testimony that detailed both the scope of the problem and solutions including calls for decreased funding incentives for police, increased funding for counseling, support staff  and educational resources, mandatory nation-wide data collection on suspension, expulsion and arrests at school, and support for evidenced-based solutions to end the persistent racial disparities that shape the contours of the pipeline.

The guidelines leave some questions – especially around the police presence at schools-but they are a much welcome step forward that reminds us too of the importance of federal framing and leadership. The complete set of resources is included below.

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CI: National Week of Action Against School Pushout

October 02, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Education, Intersectionality, LGBTQ, Prison Industrial Complex, What People are Doing to Change the World

Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Kay Whitlock, co-author of Queer (In)Justice, is contributing editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

National Week of Action Against School Pushout
by nancy a heitzeg

The school to prison to prison pipeline is the direct result of educational policies and practices that have transformed our schools from sites of opportunity and inclusion into centers of criminalization and exclusion. Over the past two decades, the proliferation of “zero tolerance” policies and an increased police presence at schools have combined to shape the school to prison pipeline via the “criminalization of school discipline.”

dscSchools increasingly criminalize minor disciplinary infractions via zero tolerance policies, have a police and/or security officers (School Resource Officer or SRO) presence for enforcement, and rely on suspensions, expulsions and arrests for minor infractions. While these policies were motivated, in part, by the perceived need to increase “safety” and “security”, zero tolerance policies and police in schools have instead increased the risks of criminalization for segments of the student body, particularly students of color who represent the vast majority of students “pushed out” of school. Under-funded public schools, over-extended teachers, and increased pressure from high stakes testing escalate the “pushout’ rate.

But youth and advocates are pushing back. This week marks the 4th Annual National Week of Action on School Pushout organized by Dignity in Schools.

Here is the week so far — we will update :

Follow the links here for additional action options and background materials. Visit Suspension Stories and the Advancement Project for more amazing resources. And, please, Do Whatever you can.

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Tell the NRA, the White House, and Your Senators ~ No!! to More Police in Schools

April 15, 2013 By: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Criminal Injustice Series, Education, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex

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With Police in Schools, More Children in Court, New York Times

Since the early 1990s, thousands of districts, often with federal subsidies, have paid local police agencies to provide armed “school resource officers” for high schools, middle schools and sometimes even elementary schools. Hundreds of additional districts, including those in Houston, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, have created police forces of their own, employing thousands of sworn officers.

Last week, in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., shootings, a task force of the National Rifle Association recommended placing police officers or other armed guards in every school. The White House has proposed an increase in police officers based in schools….

Yet the most striking impact of school police officers so far, critics say, has been a surge in arrests or misdemeanor charges for essentially nonviolent behavior — including scuffles, truancy and cursing at teachers — that sends children into the criminal courts.

“There is no evidence that placing officers in the schools improves safety,” said Denise C. Gottfredson, a criminologist at the University of Maryland who is an expert in school violence. “And it increases the number of minor behavior problems that are referred to the police, pushing kids into the criminal system.”

Nationwide, hundreds of thousands of students are arrested or given criminal citations at schools each year. A large share are sent to court for relatively minor offenses, with black and Hispanic students and those with disabilities disproportionately affected, according to recent reports from civil rights groups, including the Advancement Project, in Washington, and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, in New York.

See also: In Texas, Police Criminalize 300,000 Students Per Year, Alternet

A Real Fix: The Gun Free Way to School Safety, Advancement Project (pdf)

Action Alert: YES TO COUNSELORS, NO TO COPS

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Disciplining Black Students: Federal Order May Restrict Harsher Punishments

April 03, 2013 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Education, Poverty, Prison Industrial Complex, White Privilege


The case of a 6-year-old Georgia girl being arrested spotlights the complex issue of disciplining black children. (YouTube)

From The Root:

(The Root) — Federal mediators and public school administrators in Meridian, Miss., have reached a landmark agreement to launch a rewards-based disciplinary plan, aimed at keeping in the classroom more black students who routinely received harsher disciplinary action when accused of relatively minor infractions.

The March 22 consent decree outlined by the U.S. Department of Justice awaits a federal court’s final approval. Seen as a potential precursor to how that federal agency may resolve its present investigation of similar complaints in Seattle — and trailing a similar 2012 agreement between the Justice Department and Oakland Unified School District in California — the Meridian order comes as school-reform advocates across the country have spent roughly a decade trying to dismantle what they label as a school-to-prison pipeline. Some view ouster from school as a starting point in that journey.

“There are a combination of factors that lead to this overuse of suspensions and the criminalization of young people,” civil rights lawyer Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the Washington, D.C.-based Advancement Project, told The Root. “One, we live in a high-stakes testing environment where schools are so focused on tests scores that they’re not [sufficiently] focused on kids. It gives a perverse incentive to push out kids who are having academic problems.

“It fosters an environment where educators have less tolerance. We definitely have implicit bias that works against children, where young people are being targeted differently, especially black boys.”

Still pending is a federal lawsuit filed in October 2012 against the Meridian Police Department, Lauderdale County Youth Court and the state of Mississippi. In it, the Justice Department alleges that those entities systematically violated the due process rights of students whom the school district referred to law enforcement.

The Justice Department’s investigation noted that black students in Meridian, where 61 percent of the city’s roughly 41,000 residents are black, “frequently received harsher disciplinary consequences, including longer suspensions, than white students for comparable misbehavior, even where the students were at the same school, were of similar ages and had similar disciplinary histories.”

NYPD Arrests and Detains 7-Year-Old Over $5 Dispute

February 01, 2013 By: seeta Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Prison Industrial Complex, White Privilege

From ThinkProgress:

The New York Police Department last month arrested and detained in handcuffs a seven-year-old boy over accusations that he stole $5 from a fellow elementary school student four days earlier. The December 4 incident came to light after Wilson Reyes’ parents filed a $250 million lawsuit against the NYPD, alleging the boy was verbally, physically and emotionally abused, intimidated, humiliated, embarrassed and defamed.

His parents snapped a photo of the boy handcuffed to a wall at the police precinct, which was published on the front page of the New York Post. The details of the incident are in dispute, including how long Reyes was detained, whether he actually stole the $5 and whether he physically assaulted the other boy in the incident. But reports confirm that charges were filed against the boy for robbery and weren’t dropped until December 26.

The alleged victim, a classmate who says he is frequently bullied by Reyes, told the New York Daily News that Reyes punched the boy and stole $5 as he was walking home from school on November 30, four days before police arrested him in a classroom in the Bronx. School officials told the Post the incident occurred off grounds and it is unclear whether the school solicited police intervention.

But whether or not Reyes was a “bully” does not explain why police allegedly pulled a seven-year-old boy out of class, let alone handcuffed him to a wall, days after the altercation was over and done with. The criminalization of young children, particularly as an alternative means of school discipline, is an alarming trend that disproportionately funnels minority students into the criminal justice system.