Who worries about the School to Prison Pipeline?
Hey so another school year has started and nerves are being tested, adjustments are being made, new experiences have begun want to add another thought into the mix? How about thinking whether or not you have just sent your child into a system that is prepping him or her to end up in Prison? What do I mean by this? Have you heard about the metaphor School to Prison Pipeline?
I came across this topic in one of my conversations recently and also on a parenting blog I follow. I thought the information was interesting but she could have dug deeper, then I realized you can only speak from your experiences. Being a "minority" woman and a mom I am always digging into things that affect my daughter and my community in some way. Investing time with other parents and with other women who actively take part in matters that hopefully will change our education system is something that I value. I have experienced first hand how the "ideas" we have going into something can change drastically once you are actually in that spot.
So the "phrase" School to Prison Pipeline has surfaced in the United States after continuous events have connected students with our juvenile and adult criminal justice system. It shines a light on such things as programs implemented to reduce violence in our schools and in the class rooms, enforcing zero tolerance behaviors and actions in students and implementing disciplinary programs for "troubled" youth. Who isn't for reducing actions that place our kids in harm's way, no one right but what if these systems just target one specific group of people?
Records show that this School to Prison Pipeline mentality strictly has focused on children of color. Who may perhaps live in areas that are not "flourishing" as much as certain people in certain systems would like or feel they should. Using labels such as "troubled" for one group and "gifted" on another. Suggesting that a child who behaves poorly for one reason or another can't be helped but instead should be removed or placed elsewhere. Showing blatant disregard for certain groups while pumping large amounts of resources into another.
If you are a parent such as myself you may have encountered in your years dealing with our education system things such as cutting of your school districts funds, removal of school programs, lack of staff members etc etc.. This can become very frustrating when you see that politics play such a huge roll in our education system and the ones who suffer are the children.
When you label a small child as troubled it can't help but connect a slight red flag he or she carries with them each and every time they enter a class room. And if a teacher already has a preconceived notion about a child, how can he or she embrace their presence in the class room and teach with an open mind? If a teenager is struggling with certain emotions and is distracted in your classroom and a teacher chalks it up to "upbringing" or lack of "parents" involvement how is that helpful? How can setting any child up for failure by cutting his or her chances at success from the start, be helpful to any society?
This frame of thought goes back to the 70's and is clearly visible by the increase in people of color incarcerated in our communities. More Latinos and African Americans occupy our prison system than any other group. The United States has a tremendous amount of prisoners in comparison to the population as a whole and this all stems from labels going back to their youth.
Of course, I do not wish to suggest that there are no rotten apples but I am stating that our education system requires a complete review and deconstruction of policies in place rooted in segregation and failure from the start. When you read about similar cases and how differently they were handled, when you see severe punishment of one and walk in the park for another you know that clearly something must be done.
No parent wants to be called up to the school to find out their child has been suspended while his friends have been let off with a warning and yet it does occur. So what can parents do to make things different? Start talking! Don't become desensitized just because something doesn't affect your child.
- ask questions during parent/teacher conference and if not satisfied ask again
- sign up to receive community newsletters so you stay in the loop
- talk with other parents, engage in conversations more than just hello
- support change and the teachers who do want to make a difference
- look for alternatives to punishment as a means to correct poor behavior
- talk with your kids, ask questions find out how they feel about certain events they witness
Communication is key, start off this school year with the intent to become more engaged in your children's success by opening the lines for them to speak freely and safely with you. Encourage sharing by limiting your judgments and offering empathy and options to obstacles they may encounter.
No subject is off limits, it is our duty as parents. Difficult subject matters are part of life and growth, how do you deal with them? How have you dealt with them? Would love to hear your stories feel free to share. Here's to a great, safe, productive school year.
Always stress-free xo,