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Are Black Students A Target In Public Schools?

The State of Florida, as well as many other counties, are currently slated to add one School Resource Officer (SRO) per 1000 students to every school. This is the number recommended by the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO). Pay attention because Black students are the most at-risk.

The following initiatives are concerning for students of color:

The increase in SROs;

The U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ desire to roll back Obama’s civil rights protections for students of color, which protects Black students from being punished harsher than white students;

The Black Achievement Gap in standardized testing combined with the demand for schools to increase test scores and graduation rates for funding;

And encouraging teachers to be armed with guns in the classroom. (See article, “I’m A Teacher And Arming Teachers Puts Black Students At Risk.”)

“‘Zero-tolerance’ policies criminalize minor infractions of school rules, while cops in schools lead to students being criminalized for behavior that should be handled inside the school” (ACLU). “Students at policed schools were almost five times as likely to face criminal charges for ‘disorderly conduct,’” even though “there wasn’t much difference in serious crime” between the schools that have SROs and those that did not. The schools with an SRO also had a high number of Black students enrolled (Vox.com). Suspensions, expulsions, and jail-time are current threats to Black students, as are teachers with guns.

When Black students play the game of life, making the wrong move which includes typical teen behaviors such as a disruption, could land them in jail feeding them into the school-to-prison pipeline.

Black students were more than twice as likely to be referred to law enforcement or arrested at school than their white peers (PBS.org).

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) did a study and “found that children are far more likely to be arrested at school than they were a generation ago. The vast majority of these arrests are for nonviolent offenses. In most cases, the students are simply being disruptive.” And a recent U.S. Department of Education study found that more than 70 percent of students arrested in school-related incidents or that are referred to law enforcement are Black or Hispanic” (TeachingTolerance.org). When teachers repeatedly refer students for discipline, it pushes them out of the classroom and into the criminal justice system.

Black boys are over three times more likely than their white male counterparts to receive an out-of-school suspension.

Black girls are six times more likely than white girls to receive an out-of-school suspension.

Students receiving special education services are more than twice as likely as their peers to receive an out of school suspension.

(Educationpost.org)

Protections were put in place during the Obama administration to safeguard Black students from being forced into the school-to-prison pipeline. According to an article in the Huffington Post, the “school-to-prison pipeline” is described as an “unfortunate trend of kids graduating not out of school, but rather into the criminal justice system.”

The National Education Association (NEA) stated, “One characteristic of schools with entrenched pipelines, where students are more likely to be arrested, is the presence of a school resource officer, or SRO.”

The NASRO denies this is the case and states that SROs help students avoid the juvenile justice system. “The more nonwhite students a school has, the more likely it is to have a police presence” and “Only the poorest students have more police in schools” (Vox.com).

Privatized-prisons are a major problem for our society, but especially for people of color. As long as we have for-profit prisons, it creates a demand for workers. A new report from the Urban Justice Center’s Corrections Accountability Project identifies more than 3,100 corporations that are profiting from mass incarceration. Here is a link to a list of those corporations. The current system feeds children into a pipeline designed to create free labor for corporations, aka modern-day slavery.

Here is the thing, no one actually knows how many total SROs are currently in schools but you can usually find at least one in almost every public high school, and they are the real-deal armed police officers from the same departments the FBI warned 12-years ago that white supremacists were infiltrating, and yet nothing was done about it.

“Communities that do not trust cops in their neighborhoods do not want to invite them into their schools with their children.” — Jonathan Stith, Alliance for Educational Justice (PBS.org)

Now here we are 12-years later. High schools with 3000 students will have at least three armed police officers patrolling school grounds in the name of safety, and the catalyst is the increase in mass school shootings. In the case of the mass school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, we know that the SRO did not enter the school or assist the students while there was an active shooter but instead, took cover outside of the building.

How will additional sheriff or police officers help prevent mass school shootings when they are outgunned? Most police officers carry a standard Glock and the gun of choice for school shooters is the AR-15. A police-issued Glock 22 holds only 15-rounds and an AR-15’s standard magazine holds 30-rounds minimum unless the AR-15 has been adapted, then it can hold up to 60-to-100 rounds. In addition, there has not been one Black student responsible for any mass school shootings at this time but that is not preventing strict school guidelines that will target mostly Black students.

On top of all of this is the “No Child Left Behind” Act. The Black Achievement Gap is where Black and Hispanic grades on standardized tests fall behind that of white students and lowers the overall school’s grade from a possible “A” to as low as an “F”, which affects the school’s reputation and funding. The ACLU reported that, “…Schools may actually encourage dropouts in response to pressures from test-based accountability regimes such as the No Child Left Behind Act, which creates incentives to push out low-performing students to boost overall test scores.”

In addition, DeVos is an advocate for taking money from failing public schools and giving that money to private schools in the form of school vouchers, all in the name of School Choice. As a parent, you may say, “Okay I’ll just send my kid to a private school with the vouchers. Thanks, Betsy!” But know this, there is no reason a private school cannot increase its tuition now that there is a demand. The voucher may not cover the entire rate, leaving you paying for the private school. In other words, it won’t necessarily be a free education.

To sum it up, the public schools don’t want your Black child lowering their scores and affecting their money so they rather them not be there anyway. While they’re at it, it feeds the need for free labor in the prisons. Convenient right? We know that all school administrators don’t feel this way but this is what has been, is, and will be happening at public schools nationwide if we as parents don’t speak up and create positive change.

What are your options as a Black parent?

Strong Parent Involvement. Be an EXTREMELY involved parent. Parent involvement is critical now more than ever. Let your face be seen at the school. Be known not as a troublemaker, but as an ally. Just like your job, the more the administration sees your face, the more perks, and advantages you receive. The same thing works at a school. The more they see you, the less likely they are to target your child.

Noticeable Activities. Encourage your child to get involved in sports or activities where they are visible and well-known. The same works here. The more your child is well-known in the school, the less likely they will become a target for behavior and if they do become targeted by a teacher, they are more likely to be forgiven by the administration. It may not be fair but it’s true.

Mental Health Care. If your child repeatedly is having outbursts in class and does not have a disability that causes the disruption, there is a problem. “Youth living in inner cities show a higher prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder than soldiers,” according to Howard Spivak M.D., director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Violence Prevention. Don’t be ashamed to seek out a mental health care provider. Often the school will assist you with this and help develop a behavior intervention.

“Youth living in inner cities show a higher prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder than soldiers,” according to Howard Spivak M.D., director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Violence Prevention.

Build Our Own Schools. Let’s start having conversations about building our own top-performing schools and hiring great teachers of color. “A recent study found that black students who have at least one black teacher do better in school.” And, “If a low-income black male student in third, fourth, or fifth grade has a black teacher, he is 39 percent less likely to drop out of high school” (CityLab.com). It’s time to discuss, plan and make it happen.

CYB (Cover Your Butt). Teach your children the difference between back talk, disrespect, unwarranted attitudes and defending themselves. There is a big difference. Pure defiance will get them nowhere and will often escalate a situation. To de-escalate a teacher from wrongfully disciplining your child, teach your child how to request a meeting with the teacher right after class. It is time to teach our children how to document and create a paper trail as well. Use photos and videos to prove their points, and also keep a journal on their smartphones with dates, times, and names. The presence of SROs in schools is the justice system. Using the same tools as the justice system may become necessary to prove your child’s innocence.

Homeschooling. Homeschooling might be an option for you if you have a college degree or can hire someone to teach your child.

What is Zero-Tolerance?

“A zero-tolerance policy requires school officials to hand down specific, consistent, and harsh punishment—usually suspension or expulsion—when students break certain rules. … Under zero tolerance policies, harsh punishment applies regardless of the circumstances” (Lawyer.com). “Research shows that zero-tolerance policies don’t make schools safer and lead to disproportionate discipline for students of color” (apmreports.org).

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