Think about the first day of school. Freshly bought clothes. Freshly opened notebooks and pens. Walking the halls after three months of chilling on the couch. New classes, new textbooks, new teachers, and above all, new educational experiences.
But not everyone’s educational experience is the same. Some do not have new textbooks. Some do not have new notebooks or new pens. Some do not even have teachers that seem them as students.
In the spirit of school resuming for the upcoming 2019-2020 school year, it is important to revisit education rhetoric that effects youth and education today.
The School-to-Prison pipeline disproportionately targets students of color at a rapidly growing rate. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reported that school disciplinary policies affect Black students to where they receive harsher punishments than their white counterparts. Black students represent 31% of school-related arrests. Black students are suspended and expelled 3x more than white students. Research further suggests instances such as the ones previously mentioned construct a path that leads to criminal incarceration and cultural disenfranchisement.
Several scholars argue that the school-to-prison pipeline has transformed to a magnitude rapidly influenced by the racially charged state of fear the United States is in. To grasp the unthinkable concept of a child being tried and treated like a criminal is an understatement. History has taught us that Black children must do more than just learn reading, writing, and arithmetic to move on to obtain an education.
They must learn survival of the fittest as well.
The school to prison pipeline is nothing new. Much of the research has been recycled and brought to light in the wake of town halls, PTA meetings, and college readiness seminars. While many of these have incorporated some form of community dialogue, very few originate and are sustained in the community.
This begs the question of the role the community plays in the education endeavors our youth endures. Beyond the Back to School rallies, beyond the FREE Backpack giveaways, beyond the surface level initiatives that target clout rather than conversation.
There is still much to be examined on the direction of the School-to-Prison pipeline is headed. Not even empirical research can capture such a murky destiny. It is not as black and white as one would like to believe. It is happening at all levels. The very Black children attending schools such as Sam Houston Gates elementary school, S.J Davis middle school, and Sam Houston high school are entering a literal microcosm of racial aggression in the form of classroom instruction.
It is the assumption that cross-cultural experiences outside the classroom has no place in the curriculum but one thing changing, as a result of the School to Prison pipeline, is the encouragement of educational autonomy found within the community used to fight social injustice at the elementary, middle, and high school level.