School districts continue to disrespect black students with no sustained push-back.
Hosea 6:4 states, “My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge…” I will stop there because it perfectly sums up my thoughts regarding the school to prison pipeline and how we – the community - contribute to it with our silence. Inaction on the part of parents, guardians and concerned community members allow this evil system to wreak havoc on our black students with impunity. What I’ve observed in this year alone is that school districts DO NOT respect Black students, their parents, or the community as a whole. They have learned that Black people are emotional and reactionary. They bank on the fact that there is a ground swell for a particular issue and after a few days / weeks the fury has dissipated and it's back to business as usual - we have become complacent. We let a few folks from the community do the heavy lifting, while we entertain ourselves with music, dancing or sports. We let the same educational system that criminalizes our boys with subjective suspensions and expulsions benefit off their free labor, stocking their athletic teams with the best we have to offer and after the season is over they are discarded like trash. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!
We let a few folks from the community do the heavy lifting, while we entertain ourselves with music, dancing or sports.
This week I sat in on an informal juvenile probation interview for a student that was accused on his high school campus of stealing a pair of earbuds. He admits to being involved in the Hot Potato game with a few others including the student that the earbuds belonged to, yet when the earbuds came up missing he was the only student accused, searched and given an on campus suspension. The earbuds were NEVER found on him yet that did not deter the teacher from telling the mother of the student missing the property that this black child took it. That parent followed the accused student to his mother’s car going after him physically while repeatedly calling him a "thief.” The school administration neglected to step in. The School Resource Officer who searched the child said that he didn’t find any evidence to arrest the accused but suggested the mother initiate a citizen’s arrest. The incident took place on April 12, 2018 and the citizen’s arrest was carried out on April 23, 2018. The child was called to the office during the school day, was surrounded by three deputies and told he had to sign the citizen’s arrest citation. This young man was told if he did not sign the citation he would be arrested and would stay in jail until a judge was able to see him after the weekend. The student asked to call his mother. He was denied and required to sign the citation BEFORE he could call his mother. Say what?
So our children are being forced to sign legally binding documentation under duress and NO ONE sees a problem with it?
By signing the citation this student has thrust himself into the criminal justice system unknowingly. Although a case /complaint can be dismissed, the citation follows him for life. Did you know that? I did not. I was in the probation office trying to figure out how something that used to have punishments ranging from a parent conference to suspension now has a young man, who has never been in trouble before, facing a wobbler (a misdemeanor that can be converted to a felony depending on the proven value of the earbuds). Did you know that it is perfectly legal for your child to be arrested at school and transported to juvenile hall without you being notified? The MAJOR issue is that the Elk Grove Unified School District where this happened has NO POLICIES in place that dictate the scope of a School Resource Officer’s authority - no policies delineate between School Administration and Law Enforcement responsibilities regarding the handling of students. We have allowed a system that has never had the best interest of our students to subjugate them to culturally incompetent teachers who misuse their authority and that of Law Enforcement.
We have allowed a system that has never had the best interest of our students to subjugate them to culturally incompetent teachers who misuse their authority and that of Law Enforcement.
Why am I telling you all this? I am hoping that you understand the seriousness of what our Black students are up against and that you personally make strides to undergird these students in this public school system. They take our taxes - they better damn well start addressing our concerns about our BLACK kids with the same energy they use with safe haven campus policies and LGBTQ student protections. Black kids are constantly bombarded with a curriculum that they rarely see themselves in. They are constantly told they are not worth the resources their counterparts partake in; they are overly punished and under-resourced. To add insult to injury in schools across California, they are subjected daily to the very Law Enforcement agencies they have been conditioned to fear and mistrust.
We are in a battle against an educational system that has continually deflected when it has come to focusing solely on Black children and we are no longer in a position to wait until they are comfortable enough to do so.
How can we start the shift? Glad you asked; we must get involved. We must join in with folks who are already doing the work. We must begin to talk to each other and form meaningful relationships with one another. We cannot allow outside forces to pit us against one another, preferring the docile amenable types over the outspoken no-nonsense types. We are not here to be palatable; we are here to protect those who cannot protect themselves. We have to stop the infighting, undercutting and slandering of each other and begin to collaborate to address this foolishness for the next generation. Rise up Judah! We have been sleep too long. We must become THE VILLAGE we are waiting for. #WAKANDANOW
- Lorreen R. Pryor