65 Years After Brown v. Board of Ed, Schools are Incarcerating More Than Educating
|May 22||Public post|
A Forward Feature
by Charles Ellison | Special to The Forward | @ellisonreport
This past February, an 11-year-old Black child who was arrested at his school in Lakeland, Florida for choosing to sit quietly during the Pledge of Allegiance.
You read that right.
While it wasn’t the first time the student had sat for the Pledge, the substitute teacher leading the class that day took particular offense. Rather than use it as a moment for learning and useful historical dialogue, steps were taken to ruin his life before he had even reached high school.
This wasn’t just an instance of #SittingWhileBlack. For many white teachers of Black children, a real or imagined sign of disrespect can become an opportunity for insult, incitement and, tragically for a child, incarceration.
So why aren’t we talking about it? When education comes up in election cycles, we tend to focus most on college student loan debt, or increases in teacher salary as the ultimate solution, erasing the systematic discrimination against Black children. So it’s no surprise that this discrimination is increasing.
In a recent survey of school systems, administrators, teachers and school support specialists reported an alarming increase in disruptive behavior. The survey also found that most schools don’t have any protocol in place for managing student disruptions. The vast majority of educators identified “an alarming increase in behavioral disruptions” in early grades over the last three years.
The survey credited many potential factors as contributing to the rise in disruptions, including a history of trauma, the Great Recession, more screen time resulting in less physical activity, and increases in substance abuse and mental health diagnoses.
The survey and its respondents did not address was race. The role of race in how these disruptions are perceived, and the percentage of students that educators decide are “disruptive,” is the elephant in the room. Unasked in the survey is a key question: How are schools treating — or rather, mistreating — their Black and Brown students — and how is that treatment affecting those student outcomes?
It’s a crucial question as we observe this 65th Anniversary year of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision.
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