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May 2012 Archives

"As educational administrators have increasingly introduced police officers into schools, the result has been the blurring of lines of legal and moral questioning of students by police." --The Washington Post
According to the ACLU, "The 'school-to-prison pipeline' describes an alarming trend wherein public elementary, middle and high schools are pushing youth out of classrooms and into the juvenile justice and criminal justice system. Under the banner of 'zero tolerance,' schools increasingly are relying on inappropriately harsh discipline and, increasingly, law enforcement, to address trivial schoolyard offenses among even the youngest students." Youngsters are making the headlines as they are taken away in handcuffs. Some of them are as young as 5 years old.
"Defining and Redirecting a School-to-Prison Pipeline," by Johanna Wald and Daniel Losen, also tells this sorrowful tale of woe. And if we look carefully, we can better understand what is happening in the inner city schools of America. They write: "With a zero-tolerance approach to wrongdoing, an increase in the presence of police in schools, the use of metal detectors and search-and-seizure procedures in schools, and the enactment of new state laws mandating referral of children to law enforcement authorities for a variety of school code violations," it is evident that the school-to-prison pipeline will become the norm as the prisons, and not colleges, are filled with inner-city kids.  Furthermore, "new statutes mandating referral to law enforcement for school code violations are disproportionately affecting minority children and may be unnecessarily pushing them into the criminal justice system." 
The prisons have become a burgeoning business for many rural communities. "There are currently two million Americans in prison -- 25 percent of the world's prison population. In the US, it costs $56 billion a year to maintain our nation's prisons, and an additional $2.6 billion is poured into building new ones annually. Therefore, the Architects, Designers and Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR) are calling for designers to stop investing our national economic and social resources in the construction and renovation of prisons," announced ADPSR in January of 2006. The question remains: do our students shed their rights at the schoolhouse gates? The 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides protection against compelled self-incrimination. The Miranda Law is an extension of our 5th Amendment. This became evident in the Supreme Court ruling in a case J.B.D. v. North Carolina. This decision prevents the questioning or interviewing of juveniles by police in schools without warning them of their right not to talk and their right to have a lawyer, parent or guardian present.
Miranda Rights:
You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say or do can and will be held against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you? Having these rights in mind, do you wish to talk to us now?
Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Anthony Kennedy explained that the pressure of a custodial interrogation is "so immense that it can induce a frighteningly high percentage of people to confess to crimes they never committed," and referred to studies showing that youngsters are particularly susceptible to such pressure. Therefore, she explains, "a reasonable child subjected to police questioning will sometimes feel pressured to submit when a reasonable adult would feel free to go," and that -- empathy alert! -- "such conclusions apply broadly to children as a class. And, they are self-evident to anyone who was a child once himself, including any police officer or judge." --Dahlia Lithwick, "Read Me a Story and My 
Surely, "justice denied anywhere diminishes justice everywhere." --Martin Luther King.
"Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is in an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe." --Frederick Douglass speech, April 1886. 
Building prisons is not the answer. Nor is policing our schools the answer. We must make education a priority by providing the necessary educational resources and resource personnel in our schools.  We must create an educational pipeline to a secure brighter future for all students. There must be an IEP from Pre K to B.A. for our students in a non-toxic school environment. Our goals must be set high so at least there is a positive effort in the right direction to program students for success. If our students are the future citizens of this nation, we must be prepared to educate them and not incarcerate them. As educators we must "Invest in a human soul, who knows, it might be a diamond in the rough." --Mary McLeod Bethune.
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