Like many cops, my wife is a teacher. The other day I was passing through our kitchen and a piece of mail caught my attention. It was the Winter 2015 edition of my wife’s NEA Today newsletter publication and the main story on the front page was entitled, “The School To Prison Pipeline – Time to Shut it Down.”
I remember thinking that I’ve heard of the school-to-prison pipeline phrase before, but I could not remember where.
The cover photo was of an empty school bus with its doors swung open. Behind the bus in the background was a prison, enclosed by a frightening barbed wire fence with a watchful guard tower that reached up menacingly into a sad, empty gray sky.
The wide open doors of the school bus implied that it recently dropped off some unfortunate students to the chilling penitentiary. It was an emotive, dreary scene and it got my attention – so I turned to page 42 like it implored me to do.
The NEA is the National Education Association. It is the largest labor union in the United States and it represents public school teachers along with other staff. It’s the FOP for teachers, but much more politically active. Where you hear very little from the National FOP on social issues, the NEA doesn’t hesitate to speak out and collaborate with countless leftist social organizations to address perceived injustices.
What is the School-To-Prison Pipeline?
The school-to-prison pipeline is a theory that suggests children are being pushed out of the school system and into the criminal justice system thanks to zero-tolerance policies and the overuse of police officers in schools.
I can certainly understand where this theory comes from. During my twelve years of patrol experience, six years were spent on second shift. I have had a great deal of experience responding to schools at the request of school staff who needed help with misbehaving students.
My partner and I were often dispatched to handle students who got into fights or became disruptive in the classroom. Once we got a call for a sixth grade student who simply knocked over his desk after his teacher scolded him for a minor infraction. On another occasion, a student mumbled to his teacher, “I just wish I wasn’t alive sometimes,” after he couldn’t comprehend a math problem, launching an investigation into whether or not he displayed suicidal tendencies and if he required a forced psychological evaluation. It was quite ridiculous at times.
Our department has many school resource officers that are supposed to handle these sort of “incidents,” but they are so busy at times that patrol units are pulled from the streets to handle these situations. Luckily for those students, my partner and I were cool-headed and reasonable. If we did leave school grounds with a student, it was probably to take him home because school officials had required the student to be removed for “safety reasons.”
The bottom line is that it would be hard to find a cop that would disagree with the foundation of the school-to-prison pipeline. It’s a pretty reasonable theory on its face value and I was a little relieved to see attention being drawn toward the genuine problem of over policing students in school. But as I continued to read the article, the NEA had taken the theory into areas that caused my eyebrows to be raised in suspicion as leftist propaganda started rolling in.
Here We Go Again
Author and editor of the publication, Mary Ellen Flannery writes, “these practices have resulted in the suspension, expulsions, and arrests of tens of millions of public school students, especially students of color and those with disabilities or who identify as LGBT.”
Suddenly I realized where I had heard of the school-to-prison pipeline explained before. It’s a theory often used by afrocentric, critical race theorists to excuse the low rate of Black high school graduates and the high rate of incarceration for Blacks in prison. It is often used on social media to promote the never-ending myth of institutional racism within every facet of American life – acquitting bad Black behavior as usual.
Although I felt a little cheated after being drawn into what seemed like a reasonable theory at face value, I continued reading the article to see what the NEA wanted its members to be informed about.
As I read on, the first headlined section I came upon was titled, “Let’s Talk about Racism.” Ms. Flannery summarizes research from the U.S. Department of Justice:
Black students are suspended and expelled at a rate three times greater than White students.
Also, students with disabilities are twice as likely to be suspended than their non-disabled peers, and LGBT students are 1.4 times more likely to face suspension than their straight peers. In Ohio, a Black child with an emotional disability was 17 times more likely to be suspended than a White, non-disabled peer. (Flannery, Winter 2015 NEA Today, p.43)
She goes on to cite research by the Kirwan Institute for The Study of Race and Ethnicity, which appears to be a race theory think tank out of Ohio State University:
Black students do not ‘act out’ in class more frequently than their White peers. But Black students are more likely to be sent to the principal’s office for subjective offenses, like ‘disrupting class,” and they’re more likely to be sent there by White teachers. (Flannery, Winter 2015 NEA Today, p.43)
The Kirwan Institute blames these trends on additional vague theories such as “implicit bias” and “cultural deficit thinking” which critics find difficulty arguing against because the theories are hinged on the fact that bias and racism are rooted in a person’s subconscious without an individual’s awareness or intentional control. Isn’t that convenient.
It’s a clever way to imply that some ghost haunts American institutions with racism, but it can’t be seen, comprehended, or apparently understood – and there is no way to kill it. They just want to convince you that it is there so you concede to it and feel guilty about it. This will allow them to change society at your expense for the greater good.
I’ve talked previously here about the use of subjective theories in race realities and how their supposed, theoretical atrocities don’t compare to actual racial experiences – and how those that write them probably lack genuine racial experience themselves.
Let’s Put Theory to the Side, Shall We?
Why don’t we discuss some real world experience? If it is an injustice that Black students are disciplined more in school than White students, one would have to believe that Black students and White students behave the same way. Does anybody in the real world, outside the apparently windowless offices of the Kirwan Institute truly believe that?
Have you ever lived in the vicinity of a predominantly black school that lets out on a warm summer day? School resource officers have to develop a plan for dismissal like it’s a major event. And even with resource officers on scene, the crowds of students often fight among themselves, drawing larger excited crowds that then disperse into smaller cells that harass everyday people and businesses in the area with a disorderly groupthink mentality.
When a certain, mostly Black public high school in my jurisdiction hosts its basketball games in the evenings, the time always comes when the detail officer’s voice nervously explodes over the radio, warning the patrol cars in the area that the students are being released as if the gates of hell have been opened. You can always hear yelling and screaming as he requests cars to assist him with the crowd of amped up youth.
The large crowds of Black students often result in fights, harassment, and even shots being fired. The parents that are summoned to pick up their children sometimes fight with other parents or even other students if you can believe that. Are we to expect that these same students behave any differently in the classroom?
My wife’s first teaching job was as a substitute teacher in a mostly black elementary school in a mostly black suburb. It was not an inner city school plagued with inner city problems yet she still had to break up at least one fight in her classroom every week – more after school upon dismissal. Some students were great and many others were not, but the tension and the violence was always unsettling.
She eventually found a full-time teaching job in a poverty-stricken rural community that is all White. The small town resembled Appalachia and the community battled the same quality of life issues as those in the inner city: broken families, unemployment, alcoholism, drug abuse, boredom, lack of resources, etc. Although her White students in the poverty-stricken, dilapidated Appalachian town suffered worse conditions than her suburban Black students, the White students were less violent and less disruptive.
Although she had her issues with classroom disruptions, she had experienced almost zero violence. In the years that she was there, she never had to break up a single fight in her classroom and “smart talk” and “not listening” were the only stressors that impacted her instruction. The lack of violence and tension made for a much better learning environment.
The bottom line is that black students behave differently than white students. It’s a reality. It doesn’t take research and think tanks like the Kirwan Institute to dig deep within human subconsciousness to get to the bottom of racial issues in America; all you need is honesty, a bit of courage, and some responsibility. It is the lack of truth that appears to be the only true injustice in American race relations.
Is This Really an LGBT Issue?
LGBT people have been the most recent bargaining chip bought by leftists – and a strong one. How significant is Ms. Flannery’s statistic that LGBT students are suspended at a rate 1.4 times more than straight students. Really, 1.4 times more? Is this really an issue or is the NEA supplementing their activism power? The left has shamelessly thrown LGBT people into politics where very little reason sometimes exists; perhaps even against their wishes as in the school-to-prison pipeline theory.
When I was in high school in the 1990s, there were gay kids and nobody cared. I remember hearing rumors of two lesbians who would occasionally walk through the halls holding hands. Out of absolute curiosity, I always hoped to see it, but I never did. It started small conversations here and there, but the drama wasn’t anything like it is today.
There were no local news stories of kids killing themselves over being gay back then. The whole LGBT social issue and activism today reminds me of Iraq. Remember when Iraq was a relatively peaceful, stable place in the world until outsiders (namely the US Government) began meddling in it for purposes that they felt were for the greater good? Now it’s a destabilized war zone where unstable people run wild and power is fought for with blood by fanatics.
Ever since the left has put LGBT issues into the spotlight, it turned into a freak show. They seemed unable to handle the light and now run wild, offending ordinary sensibilities because they themselves felt offended in the past. They created a confused monster which at one time, minded its own business and just wanted to be left alone – but now desires to suddenly and indiscreetly be shoved directly into the matters of every man, woman, and child.
Answers in All the Wrong Places
In summary, I like the foundation of the school-to-prison pipeline theory. I don’t think the police should be the primary option to deal with disruptive students, but let’s face it: children aren’t as amicable as they have been in the past – times have changed.
So if the police shouldn’t be the ones dealing with troubled students, who should? The NEA’s answer is apparently teachers, armed with “preventative discipline and rehabilitative measures” like “circling up with students when problems occur, which means having in-depth, facilitated conversations,” according to Flannery.
When exactly would the teacher have time to teach content? Is it the teacher’s job to heal dozens of broken children and resolve deep-seated issues that have taken years to develop while trying to educate everyone else at the same time? If not teachers, then who?
The words “mother” or “father” were not used a single time in this article. The word “parent” is used once, but only in a quote from a student about her parent’s divorce and how it led to some of her bad behavior.
One would think that parents might be a factor in the equation that ultimately land some children into prison.
It’s almost as if the NEA sees itself as the parent and actual mothers and fathers are only mere support. The NEA provides all the answers and theories. They say, “Don’t worry, we’ll take care of it.” They either have no expectations of parents or no need for them. Which is worse?
One day while waiting in court, I was talking to a school resource officer who is Black. He told me that he went to a public community meeting with police and school officials to address the violence of students on and off school grounds. He said that everyone was scratching their heads and were at a loss for answers. He stood up in the mostly vacant auditorium and asked where all the parents were. He then offered his observation that many of the parents of the troubled students were at home, lounging around collecting a check from the government. He asked what would happen if they withheld public assistance until they started to participate in the raising of their own children.
He said the entire place went silent and he was asked to sit down.
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