Our Children: Arrested Developments

Jose 7 Comments

Yesterday, Think Progress reported that administration in Meridian, MS sent children (predominantly special needs and / or Black) to prison for infractions as small as dress code violations. Read:

After months of investigation into claims of such a pipeline, the Justice Department released Friday a definitive letter revealing that the Meridian Police Department “automatically arrests all students referred to MPD by the District. The children arrested by MPD are then sent to the County juvenile justice system”:

“The system established by the City of Meridian, Lauderdale County, and DYS to incarcerate children for school suspensions ‘shocks the conscience,’ resulting in the incarceration of children for alleged ‘offenses’ such as dress code violations, flatulence, profanity, and disrespect.” The Justice Department findings letter noted.[...]

“The systematic disregard for children’s basic constitutional rights by agencies with a duty to protect and serve these children betrays the public trust,” said Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division. “We hope to resolve the concerns outlined in our findings in a collaborative fashion, but we will not hesitate to take appropriate legal action if necessary.”

How many times do you refer to your students as animals, and your classroom a zoo? How often do you already assume their disposition because of the masks they wear? How many of those boys and girls in your classroom used to believe in magic, wonderment, and possibility? When you look at your boys, are you OK with those children wearing handcuffs?

Would you like your disciplinary style applied to your own kids, or is that too far for your kid?

I get it, too. Teachers are human. Sometimes, we can’t stand some of the actions of kids take. Frankly, they can piss us off. But our feelings shouldn’t determine their path (because often they do).

Plus, most educators I know have an obligation towards a child’s learning; the other stuff comes secondary, if not tertiary. Teaching them life lessons implicitly comes with that territory, and educators (that includes administration and support staff) ought to demonstrate some integrity in helping to develop better people. Most of the other stuff, including chewing gum and dress code, don’t take precedence over their learning.  That’s why I’ve only had seven write-ups in the last two years, and I still think that’s too much. I rather handle it myself. Once I’ve assumed that the law will catch them later on in life, I might as well give up teaching now.

Actually, if this is what’s happening in Meridian, MS, all those teachers should as well. We don’t need more prisoners. We need more students. The kind that will keep asking questions, and arrest themselves in trying to solve problems rather than internalizing them.

Jose, who has one more to go before he gives away these limited edition and signed books!

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Jose VilsonOur Children: Arrested Developments

Comments 7

  1. Renee @TeachMoore

    Thank you so much for giving this sad story the attention and the angle it deserves. This is not just another excuse for people to point their fingers here at MS, but really to point a finger at our collective selves for becoming so callous.

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      Jose

      I swear to you, I’m tired of people always saying, “Well, it’s the South” like racism doesn’t happen in very overt ways throughout the country. Thanks for reading. It deserves to be said loudly.

  2. Jesse Turner (@readdoctor)

    Reading this made me think of Bob Dylan’s song ” Blowing in the wind” where we are asked “How many roads most a man walk down
    Before you call him a man? Well how many times do we arrest a child before he becomes an inmate for life? Tell it on a mountain Jose something is rotten in Meridian MS. It represents that greater problem America’s refusal to stop feeding our school to prison pipeline problem.
    A Trillion dollars of NCLB’s testing and mandated scripted curriculums have failed our children, families, and communities living in poverty. Ignoring the our nation’s failure to desegregate our schools has brought to being the world leader:
    Not in math,
    Not in science,
    Not in Literacy,
    But, in being at the world leader in the incarceration of our won citizens.

    In Langston Hughes Let America Be America he ended with the verses:

    O, yes,
    I say it plain,
    America never was America to me,
    And yet I swear this oath–
    America will be!

    Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
    The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
    We, the people, must redeem
    The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
    The mountains and the endless plain–
    All, all the stretch of these great green states–
    And make America again!

    Jose it is time we heed those word “We, the, people must redeem….
    Arresting children does not redeem America, but condemns it.
    I reject incarceration of students as education.
    I long ago decided to line up on the side of redeemers in this struggle for equity.
    Sincerely,
    Jesse The Walking Man Turner

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  3. Pingback: Sharing Sundays: A Renee Moore and Jesse Turner Sighting | The Jose Vilson

  4. Chad Sansing

    Last month I read The New Jim Crow. It didn’t deal enough with schools-

    It’s past time that those of is in the system supporting all kinds of inhumane and backwards “discipline” policies either take responsibility for them or take responsibility for dismantling them.

    Thanks for blogging on this, Jose-

    Best,
    C

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