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Plugging the School to Prison Pipeline by Addressing Cultural Racism in Public Education Discipline

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Title: Plugging the School to Prison Pipeline by Addressing Cultural Racism in Public Education Discipline
Author: Metze, Patrick
Abstract: As timely as today’s headlines, I take a critical look at the failure of the public schools to educate our children by criminalizing and alienating students of color and of economic disadvantage, forcing them out of the schools and into the juvenile justice system as the first step to a life of reduced expectations and productivity. We are failing to prevent these children from becoming disengaged from society and its institutions that were designed for their benefit - the institution of a free public education. It is time we frankly acknowledge that our long stored history of racial conflict has matured into more subtle expressions of superiority and inferiority evidenced by the demographics of that large segment of our children that fail to complete the basic high school education. Over 1,000,000 young people each year do not graduate on time. Call it dropouts, call it “leavers,” call it “delayed graduation,” give it whatever bureaucratic label you wish, but a population of our youth as large as the tenth largest city in the United States fails to timely graduate high school EACH YEAR. This is a failure of monumental proportions and has led to societal restructuring inconsistent with our history. The systematic exclusion from public education of children of color and of economic disadvantage is the hole in the pipeline through which these children are forced - a pipeline which all too often leads from their public school to involvement with juvenile justice agencies and eventually prison as an adult. This is a problem that should not be ignored any longer. It must be dealt with now, not kicked down the road to the next generation, and the next, and the next. In this article I look at school discipline, the past and the present, and how certain segments of the student population find themselves pushed out of an education from the overuse of suspensions, expulsions, and disciplinary alternate education, by a system that marks these students as low-achieving and a detriment to a school district’s accountability, forcing districts to “game the system,” or cheat, to obtain an advantage at the expense of the ones they are charged to educate. In the end, the demise of the Disciplinary Alternate Education Programs is offered as a beginning step toward using evidence-based positive behavioral interventions and supports to address student behavior in every school keeping more children in school, less discouraged and more engaged. These issues may appear to be Texas specific, but they exist in virtually every public school, in every state. As Texas is often used as a public education barometer, the solutions in Texas can be used to improve public school education throughout the United States. There is no “Texas Miracle" in public education, only a sad reminder of our past and a glimpse of our future responsibility of caring for those that fail.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10601/1930
Date: 2012

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