We focus on Trayvon's Law, one part at a time. This is Part 1 of six parts in which members of Support the Dream Defenders clarify the purposes and methods of Trayvon's Law. In Part 1, our focus is busting up the pipeline [Editors].
*Introduction to a Six-Part Series on Trayvon's Law* Trayvon’s Law is a set of bills with several purposes: Bust up the school-to-prison pipeline, end racial profiling, repeal stand-your-ground laws, create law enforcement accountability through effective police oversight, improve training and best practices for community watch groups, and mandate law enforcement data collection on homicide cases involving people of color. In Part 1 of this series, joedemocrat focuses on busting up the school-to-prison pipeline [Editors]. *Trayvon's Law: The School to Prison Pipeline* I'm new to the Daily Kos group Support the Dream Defenders. In this group, I have gotten to know some Kossacks who have decided to positively and passionately promote Trayvon's Law (PDF). The Dream Defenders occupied Florida Gov. Rick Scott's office for 31 days. The Dream Defenders came to Tallahassee not only to pass Trayvon's Law, but to show people what democracy and a true grassroots movement looks like. Listen to the video!YouTube Video This diary focuses mostly on one goal of Trayvon's Law - to effectively end the school to prison pipeline. From page 5 of the NAACP linked PDF document. Dismantling the School to Prison Pipeline
These additional recommendations speak to disciplinary and educational issues that are critical to keeping youth safe and in school. Too many youth, particularly youth of color, are needlessly suspended, expelled or come in contact with the criminal justice system. America must focus on keeping children in school and out of prisons and jails. To do so, several policy changes must immediately be enacted. It is time to redirect our misplaced priorities and create policies and help kids stay in school.
What is the "School To Prison Pipeline?" My definition is a school culture where minor offenses or disruptive behavior that used to be handled by parents and teachers is now brought to the attention of the juvenile and criminal justice system. The result is an increasingly common but tragic cycle where kids are removed from the classroom and placed into the juvenile correction system. The ACLU defines the "School To Prison Pipeline" as follows.
The “school-to-prison pipeline” refers to the policies and practices that push our nation’s schoolchildren, especially our most at-risk children, out of classrooms and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.
Teaching Tolerance (a project of Southern Poverty Law Center) has some statistics illustrating racial minorities and those with disabilities are disproportionately hurt by the "School to Prison Pipeline."
African-American students, for instance, are 3.5 times more likely than their white classmates to be suspended or expelled, according to a nationwide study by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights.
For students with disabilities, the numbers are equally troubling. One report found that while 8.6 percent of public school children have been identified as having disabilities that affect their ability to learn, these students make up 32 percent of youth in juvenile detention centers.
The "School to Prison Pipeline" began as a result of unfair and ineffective zero tolerance policies. These "zero tolerance" policies in schools began in 1994 when Congress mandated that schools expel for one year any student who brought a firearm to school or lose federal funding. Many school districts expanded "zero tolerance" policies and applied them to drugs, cigarettes, disruptive behavior, swearing, etc. Simply put, anyone who is caught violating a policy is punished regardless of behavioral history, ignorance, or any other extenuating circumstance. The result? The number of kids suspended and expelled has more than doubled over a generation. In 2006, more than 3.3 million students were suspended and another 102,000 expelled (PDF).
The majority of suspensions are for minor misbehavior, such as disruptive behavior, insubordination, or school fights, which can be interpreted in subjective and biased ways, even unintentionally.
In other words, minor offenses that used to be more fairly and effectively handled by parents and teachers. What are some examples of victims of zero tolerance policies in schools? Follow me below the fold.
Zachary Christie was a 6 year old Delaware boy who was so excited about his Cub Scout camping utensil that could be used as a knife, fork, or spoon he took it to school to use at lunch. Zachary was suspended and was to be placed in the district's reform school for 45 days. The school district then rescinded the suspension. I suspect the media firestorm played a role in that decision? This is Robert's story. Robert was an 11 year old boy. He was late to school one day, and hurriedly put on a dirty pair of jeans with his Boy Scout pocket knife inside. He was suspended, and sent to a disciplinary school. This is the story:
Robert was an 11-year-old in 5th grade who, in his rush to get to school on time, put on a dirty pair of pants from the laundry basket. He did not notice that his Boy Scout pocketknife was in one of the pockets until he got to school. He also did not notice that it fell out when he was running in gym class. When the teacher found it and asked whom it belonged to, Robert volunteered that it was his, only to find himself in police custody minutes later. He was arrested, suspended, and transferred to a disciplinary school.
Kiera Wilmont has a story. She was curious and put toilet bowl cleaner and aluminum foil in a water bottle, causing the bottle to explode in school. Nobody was hurt. Very minor disturbance. She was arrested, expelled, and even charged with multiple felonies. This story got on MSNBC with Chris Hayes:
In Kiera Wilmont's case, the charges were dropped a few weeks later but she did wind up serving a 10 day suspension. Would the charges have been dropped without a media firestorm? There have been 3.3 million kids suspended from school since 2006, mostly over minor offenses. How many of these stories created a media firestorm causing school districts to reverse it? Also, the above linked New York Times article article reveals some shocking statistics on how students in some school districts are affected:
In Baltimore, around 10,000 students, about 12 percent of the city’s enrollment, were suspended during the 2006-7 school year, mostly for disruption and insubordination [...]
In Milwaukee, where school officials reported that 40 percent of ninth graders had been suspended at least once in the 2006-7 school year, the superintendent has encouraged teachers not to overreact to student misconduct.
Here at Daily Kos, dsnodgrass wrote several diaries illustrating how his autistic son was a victim of the "School To Prison Pipeline." Here is a link to the first diary "Our Autistic Son was Handcuffed and Arrested in School We Were Not Notified. A common thread in all these programs is ALEC, whom Bill Moyers recently exposed in his excellent documentary "The United States of ALEC." ALEC has been behind the privatization of prisons (see this excellent Daily Kos diary). I hope people will take the time to read that excellent diary! The privatization of prisons was done under the false guise it would save taxpayers money because private corporations could do the job cheaper than public agencies. The actual result was it created a powerful corporate lobby to push for harsher sentences causing a huge increase in the number of incarcerated Americans. This benefited nobody - not inmates, not families, not taxpayers, not communities. Here are some other links to articles about ALEC and the privatization of prisons: ADSCME Making A Killing: How Prison Corporations Are Profiting From Campaign Contributions and Putting Taxpayers At Risk (PDF). The Nation: The Hidden History of ALEC and Prison Labor So we put the money into prisons because they are privatized and incarceration benefits the few at the expense of many, but we fail to adequately fund public schools? We will put money into the juvenile corrections system at the expense of school programs such as special education, school counselors, the arts, and more? ALEC is also behind efforts to privatize public schools. How many of us have heard the story of Mark Ciarvarella Jr. the former Pennsylvania judge who was convicted of accepting $1 million in bribes for sending adults and children to prison? That is one result of privatization. Here is a highlight from that story:
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has overturned some 4,000 convictions issued by him between 2003 and 2008, claiming he violated the constitutional rights of the juveniles – including the right to legal counsel and the right to intelligently enter a plea. Some of the juveniles he sentenced were as young as 10-years old
How does a child defend him or herself against a culture that continuously teaches the child there is something wrong with him or her? How does a child defend him or herself against a culture that teaches he or she doesn't measure up? That he or she simply doesn't deserve the same consideration as everyone else? If you were taught this early on, wouldn't you believe it? Wouldn't that influence your decisions and behavior for a very long time? Why do we blame those who are hurting and lash out in frustration or desperation? Why don't we as a society put the resources into helping people we put into punishing them? In closing, I will share a personal story. I was in 9th grade. This kid was picking on me in class. I had it with kids picking on me, so I took a ball point pen and stabbed him in the back of the shoulder causing a puncture wound. The teacher was there, and he told this kid "you had it coming." I had no consequence from the school. The next day, this kid told me his parents were going to send my parents the doctor bill. I worried, but it never happened. I had no consequence. Would this incident have ended this way today? Have you or someone in your family or close friends been a victim of the "School to Prison Pipeline?"
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About the Daily Kos group Support the Dream Defenders The Dream Defenders are fighting for justice in Florida. Their mission is to enact Trayvon's Law in Florida, which would repeal the Stand Your Ground law, ban racial profiling, and end the school-to-prison pipeline. Support the Dream Defenders is a Daily Kos community. We promote and support the Dream Defenders, online and off. *How To Join Us:* Send us a kosmail. *How to Follow Us:* Go to our diaries page and click the ♥. If you are a Kossack, when you Follow a person or group, their diaries will appear in your Stream. As an example, here is the Stream of Denise Oliver Velez. Note: Joining and Following are completely separate functions in DK4. *How to Find Our Diaries:* Our next group diary. All diaries published and republished by our group. *How to Find Our Groupmail Inbox:* DK4 groupmail inboxes are notoriously difficult to find, because we receive no "You have mail" signal. If you have Editor status, and you want to participate, please bookmark our group kosmail inbox, and check it as frequently as you want to participate. That page does not refresh itself, either. *Kossacks in Florida:* We welcome your reports and pictures about your orange feet-on-the-ground protests and organizing in support of the Dream Defenders. Please use our comments and/or group kosmail to confidentially locate nearby Floridians who support the Dream Defenders and build networks. If you have never written a diary, we will help you. Ask us anything. *Note:* Support the Dream Defenders is a community of Kossacks. Each of us is opposed to the Stand Your Ground law in Florida. We are an *action* group dedicated to supporting the passage of Trayvon's Law in Florida. We do not need to debate the merits of SYG laws or 2nd Amendment issues in our action diaries. If you want to argue, go start your own DK group and/or go write your own diary.