(Photo from the Youth Justice Coalition)
In America, education is supposed to provide children with endless possibilities and the chance to enter into the profession or trade they love. From day one children are told that if they do their part, if they show up, sit down, shut up, and listen that they will be given a fair shot at becoming a productive citizen. However, this is only part of the truth; this is only how it works for some children in the education system. Other children have to abide by a different set of rules, rules that say children have to show up, become complacent with having mace sprayed in their faces for minor infractions, become complacent with being shackled to radiators and beat with night sticks when it’s excessive and redundant, all the while listening and remaining mute to the abuses they face. What’s even more disheartening than this is that even the children who show up and abide by the sub-section of rules they are given to abide by are still punished, they are still imprisoned when other options are available, they are denied an equitable education, and put on a track to unproductively living amongst society.
Its amazingly surprising that today that the aforementioned acts of unjust nature still take place and that the sole practitioner of such practices is the one system that is supposed to free children from the misfortunes it directs them toward. However, what’s more disheartening and dangerously surprising is that while we sit around and discuss and argue about how secondary options to public education ultimately undermines public education we continue to ignore these atrocities that in themselves act as a benefactor to the undermining of public education. The school to prison pipeline that we rarely talk about and work to combat is the sole benefactor in children who have no enthusiastic outlook, who have bleak views on success and who have no hope for a better future outside of the paradigms of poverty.
It’s a shame that children today have to walk into a school and risk being abused by the very people who are supposed to be providing an equitable education to them in an environment that is as safe as possible. It’s a shame that today children are being forced out of school not because of unwillingness to learn but by a system of people who seem to work tirelessly to suspend and expel children at rates that are unexplainable and unjustifiable. Schools are supposed to be havens for children, havens that free them from the atrocities and misfortunes of the world and provide them a pathway to uplifting themselves out of neighborhoods that hinder their success and that unleash their potential. The fact that there are places in the United States of America that do this is just unexplainable. The fact that we as a nation have the nerve to denounce other nations for failing to provide children with opportunities yet we do the same but instead of having them poor and on social welfare programs we have them locked up in jails for infractions that are correctable by other means. The fact that our education system which is often noted as not having enough capable human capital is the plays a part as a partial benefactor is even more of a shame. How is it even possible that the system that is supposed to uplift and free is pushing children toward what they are trying to escape?
Nevertheless, more disturbingly, this school to prison pipeline is not why children are locked away, it’s not how they are shackled to radiators, it’s not how children are forced to have mace sprayed in their faces when its unwarranted, it’s not even the fact that children are knocked to the ground and beat like savages by not only police officers who are sworn to protect and serve but by teachers who are sworn to educate through providing children with knowledge that eradicates poverty and enlightens hope and prosperity. More troubling thing about the growth of the school to prison pipeline is the fact that it started off in public education, in schools in low income neighborhoods with low income students and has gradually started moving beneath charter schools in neighborhoods that serve no particular student. The most dangerous and socially unjust part about this is that since the charter school serves no particular subgroup of students as they are often drawn from neighborhoods ranging from low income to moderate income it has heightened the number of children who can be forced into the pipeline by drastic proportions. This growth has essentially enabled the school to prison pipeline to suck more children in than ever before and since it continually goes unchecked its reach will only grow more and more until children are swept off to prisons for things so simple that a lunch detention could resolve.
Simply put, if we continue to let the school to prison pipeline go unchecked, unchallenged, and unstopped than more and more future productive citizens will be either forced out of public education through fear and frustration or through imprisonment and resentment. This continued growth of the pipelines reach has become more and more apparent and the benefactors have become more known. If we don’t close it soon we will do more disservice to our society than we have already done and we will limit potential before it even is exposed and America in its current state can’t afford that.