The school to prison pipeline

Hamilton, Lacino



Ths School To Prison Pipeline By: Lacinq Hamilton Several years ago I hap the. distinct pleasure.. of participating in an "Are Prisons.Qbsolets" workshop at the Macomb Correctional.Pacility in New Hav Michigan. During a bathroom and refreshment break I had an insightful discussion with one of the professors that flew in from Ohio. Some of which I'd like to ,share here. The professor, a twenty year veteran of ths academy, shared with ms an essay wrote by Pedro. A. Moguera, a professor of education at Hardvard .University, called "Schools, Prisons, and Social Implications of Punishment: Rethinking Disciplinary Practices." In it, Moguera begins by,recounting how he was taken on a tour: of. an elementary school in northern California, by the school's assistant principal.. The purpose of. his visit was. to .learn more about the ways the school was .implementing a grant designed to. increase, provisions of social services to students, most of wham came from low-income, economically depressed neighborhoods. As the tour .cams to. an and Moguera and the assistant principal passed by a boy in the . hallway - who was no. more than nine years ...old. The assistant principal began .shaking his head back and forth as if he. was, gesturing to say no. Then, pointing, at the child, Moguera remembered the assistant principal turned tc him and said, ."do .you see that boy? There is a prison call in San Quentin waiting. for him." Surprised by .observation, Moguera.. asked his guide how he. was able to , predict ..the future of such . a young child. He replied, "Well, his father is in prison, he's got a brother and uncle there too. In fact, the whole family is nothing but trouble. I can see from how he behaves ..already- that it's only a matter of time before he ends up there too." Responding to the certainty with which he made, those pronouncements, Moguera recalled asking, "Given what., you know about him, what is. the school doing to prevent him from going to prison?" He remembered the assistant principal being surprised and flustered by the question. He also remembered the assistant principal saying that he did not believe it was the school’s responsibility to keep the child from following a path that would lead to prison.’ In fact, the'assistant' principal went'as far as to say he was preparing to put the child, nine years did, on an indefinite suspension. Moguera asked exactly what any person of consciousness‘' would have: ' did ths principal think that such a plan would work for the child given the difficulty 'of the child’s situation at home.'I forgot to 'mention, the child was being raised "by his elderly" grandmother. The assistant principal responded,'as many people•who have been'conditionedto view schools detached from the community and family, by telling Moguera there was 'nothing mors the school could do. Supposedly, children like the one who is subject of this story just, can’t be helped. They take up so much time and keep teachers from serving the needs of other: children who are there to learn. This’ story is‘ indicative of the ways many'schools'handle the discipline of troubled students. Throughout the" United State's schools ^frequently punish students who have the greatest academic, social, economic, and emotional needs.’Many’ of which are students with learning 'disabilities, students in foster care, of color, dr are'’under 'some form of protective 'custody.' In doing so, they contribute to the marginalization of such students, ignoring the issues that actually cause the problematic behavior. Often pushing these children out of school' altogether. I asked the visiting pro: if when we returned to group discussion-would she mind sharing this story? It was obvious there was a connection between many" U.S. school’s fixation with behavior management—the "observation that' a nine year old' had prison in ’his future—and 'the Are Prisons Obsolete workshop. As our convarsation carried over to the -group discussion, . moat- of ..tbs people in attendance agreed that there is a growing correspondence between many schoolsj. especially • inner, city • -schools, and .prisons; and that, . the, similarities are not. an accident., Disciplinary practices in schools.. often bear a striking • resemblance to the st society. Not surprisingly, those most frequently targeted for punishment in school often lo-ok—in terms .of. race, gender, and •soclo-e.conomic statusr-a lot., like smaller, .versions • of • the- adults, who are - most - likely |§ be targeted. for incarceration in society. * . Typically -schools rely on soms-.-form of exclusion or ostracism to control the behavior, of students... The- linking of the two institutions, often. -referred .to as ths schooi-to-prison-pipeline, is a. by product of -a. deadly-: symbiosis between schools that are custodial in nature and prison. Many- schools -located in ;so-called, bad. neighborhoods, have, similarly deter lore-: ,th© point where., they, operate in the manner of institutions of confinement whose ■primary.-mission is .not to . educate but ,to ensure custodial control. • like •the -prison system, schools are organized -along class and ethnoracial- lines-. And like. inmates, students- are..herded into decaying and overcrowded facilities built like bunkers, where undertrained, and- underpaid teachers strive to regulate conduct so as to maintain order and minimize violent incident.' - , • • There .are millions of people of. -all walks of -life that-- find .a correspondence between 'and- • prison/, disturbing because . accusation...- is almost conspiratorial, implicitly.if not explicitly. Unfortunately,• in many ways the schooi-to-prison-pi• 5 is far worse than .any conspiracy. ■The■ tendency to punish the neediest children, especially those who are Black and Latino, occurs without, conscious- planning or deliberate- orchestration. • For . educators - like-..the assistant principal..- who-, s-aw no other option- but to indefinitely, suspend,-a nine, year old., it- is simply the way things are done. Removal of the student was the. only option even• though.he knows f will not help t/fie student and'may, ifi' fact!, make - matters worse■ ' Sound'familiar? A judge sentencitig someone-to -prison,' even though ths judge knows- that;incarcerating'-people for-pert-or all of their lives will not help with the underlining problem, end may in fact"make matters worse, • I left that workshop and' returned to e prison- cell, where I had"been held since Duly'1994. I lay there that night almost in disbelief, my story was so similar to that of the nine year old boy. And ths more I have.gotten to know many of the men I've encountered during my years of incarceration, it is their ‘story, too. The way the United States approaches crime,- the assumption that safety- and order can be achieved by removing so-called bad individuals and ■ keeping them away from others -who are presumed to be- good and law abiding, is also how control-in U.S. schools is approached. Now th I’m suppose to give you all the answers. Sorry, but I don't have the'answers. No one individual doss. Sure, I can' definitely suggest that what is "needed is -a recruitment of educators who will question the tendency to punish- through exclusion and -‘humiliation,• • and who see themselves as -advocates of children and not as wardens and ^prison guards, but the solution is more complex' than' that .- • ' Once students know that the rewards of education are available only to effraction of a percent of them, students have little incentive to comply with rules, no; -matter what control measures are taken. Such' students are more likely-•to be' labeled defiant, maladjusted, - and difficult to deal with; and they are more'likely vto : internalize these labels and act • out In ways, that match; the' expectations that have been -set for'-them. ' As they get older, '..the' rule violations often increase in • frequency'‘ and severity, resulting in a steady escalation in the sanctions that are applied. For’many the- cycle of punishment eventually leads to entanglement with law enforcement-‘"and • the criminal justice system* This is why walking info- many schools is like walking into a prison, metal detectors,- surveillance cameras, and armed guards to boot. Which is why the assistant principal’s predictions about ths future of the misbehaving youngster in his charge is disturbingly prophetic. Perhaps solutions derive from the premise that many U.S. students are right i.e., "schools aren't talking about nothing?" Many students understand that their education cannot even lead them to the factories or other middle class jobs that have been taken from their parents; and they deliberately engage in behavior that will ensure their educational failure. Many students realize that school does not address their most immediate problems. So, for example, for students growing up in the want and misery of many urban and inner city areas, school does not teach them how to make their families whole again, how to get drugs out of the neighborhood, how to stop police from brutalizing and murdering them, how to hold a derelict political structure accountable, or change it, self-determination, ur now 1..0 crueliw their image and best interests. Perhaps we have to re-think more than the educational experience, and rethink the social contract that underlies schooling? The unwillingness of educators to turn their attention to the immediate needs of students causes them to embrace the mistaken belief that we can teach students how to think without troubling them to learn anything worth thinking about; the belief that we can teach them how to understand the world in which they live without conveying to them ths events and ideas that have brought it into exisisnc'S. Re-thinking disciplinary measures that marginalize, isolate end punish students is just a prelude to repairing, restoring and revolutionizing the:* r lives. Liacino Hamilton, 247310 Thumb Correctional Facility 3225 John Conley Dr. Lapeer, MI 48446

Author: Hamilton, Lacino

Author Location: No information

Date: October 24, 2016

Genre: Essay

Extent: 5 pages

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