Kalief Browder and the School-To-Prison Pipeline

Jose Vilson Education, Featured, Race

A few weeks ago, I was supposed to attend the premiere of Time: The Kalief Browder Story, the documentary about a young man wrongly arrested and held captive for years in Rikers Island. The story uncovers the excesses and atrocities of the prison industrial complex in the world’s empire city all through a young man whose post-traumatic stress disorder ended with him taking his life. The Jay-Z / Weinstein Company-produced documentary would have been a delight to watch.

Then school happened.

As a teacher and parent, I get to see first hand the effects that schooling has on our youth. The constrictions and mandates placed on our children and the ideals we give up in the name of security all form the alloy that keeps the school-to-prison pipeline intact. We keep losing our most vulnerable youth when we’re not responsive to their needs and concerns. Surely, institutional racism and oppression are hard to bear for one adult at a time. But now, more than ever, is the time to have the conversation about our agency as adults in this school-to-prison pipeline, and how we re-enact jail to and for our kids.

So I had a bad day at school and didn’t attend the premiere.

Luckily, the good folks at Spike arranged for me to speak with the filmmakers about this harrowing film. When I interviewed the director of Time, Jenner Furst, I needed to know about Browder’s path, his school, and what we could do better as adults. This is intertwined with preferred methods of schooling because, in many instances, we’re driving schools to be institutions that slide kids right into prison. Curricula, pedagogy, and wayward research are some of the drivers for this momentum.

I’d say more, but please do read this interview with Jenner Furst. Thank you and let’s continue the conversation.