Action Call #10: Failing Our Youth - The Miseducation, Criminalization, and Marginalization of Students

Photo credit Occupy4prisoners https://www.flickr.com/photos/danielarauz/6974359242

The appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education is one of the most horrific decisions made by this trainwreck of a president. DeVos has zero public school experience — growing up as a billionaire, she attended private schools. The changes she proposes and the $9 billion — a 13% cut — from public education that Trump wants will specifically harm children of color. While Trump plays golf every weekend, children from marginalized communities face the threat of less money for their schools, larger class sizes, and the elimination of thousands of after-school and summer programs that serve nearly 2 million children, many of them from low-income families. After-school programs provide snacks for children who may otherwise not eat. DeVos and Trump also want to gut free and reduced-lunch programs; they want to take food out of the mouths of hungry kids.

Under the false premise of “giving parents more choices in their children’s education,” DeVos wants to cut public school funding and institute a voucher system, meaning publicly funded scholarships to pay for private schooling. Issues of racism run rampant in the education system as well as the current administration and DeVos seemingly supports states’ rights to discriminate against our most vulnerable student populations. The system that targets children of color, holds them to different standards than their white counterparts, and shoves them through the school-to-prison pipeline will worsen intensify under DeVos’s sorry excuse for “leadership.” The abuse of our children of color in the education system are current, frequent, unregulated, and will worsen under the DeVos and Trump alliance to destroy our children, in particular children of color.

This call to action spotlights the problems with privatizing our schools; the issues of systemic racism in education; and the steps we can take to fight for the rights of our students and families. Please read, share, and take some (or all!) of the actions set forth in this call to protect the rights of children to a safe, fair, and equitable education.

PRIVATIZATION and SCHOOL FUNDING

Nearly 90% of American school-age kids attend public schools, which are dependent on state, local, and federal funding. By appointing DeVos, Trump has declared war on our children. Federal aid is now under threat from an executive order that is meant to justify ending public school as we know it; new legislation will eliminate the U.S. Department of Education; forced compliance with voucher systems puts marginalized students at a disadvantage; and the repeal of Michelle Obama’s school lunch nutritional standards puts our children’s nutritional health at risk. By privatizing education, DeVos and the Trump administration are rejecting policies that have been previously put into place to protect our most vulnerable population: children.

Act to protect public education and support of students

  • Join Resistbot by texting 50409 to send a message to your representatives. Resistbot is free to use and helps you communicate directly with your local representatives. Use Resistbot to tell your representatives that you support public schools and want them to vote against gutting public education.
  • Join the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools to stay informed on actions to protect public education. This organization is “fighting to reclaim the promise of public education as our nation’s gateway to a strong democracy and racial and economic justice.” Share resources on social media, in family and community settings, and spark discussion with your friends and colleagues.
  • Send these tweets to DeVos and Trump.

Support students working to defend their schools and their futures

  • Donate to The United States Student Association, which represents 1.5 million students on issues of education justice. They have been at the forefront of opposing DeVos’s policies and focus on racial justice in schools, fighting for immigrants’ rights, and ending sexual violence on campuses, among many other initiatives in their National Education Justice Platform. Donate here.

RACISM and the SCHOOL-to-PRISON PIPELINE (STPP)

The school-to-prison pipeline (STPP) is designed to channel children of color straight from the education system to incarceration. Police are placed in schools as “School Resource Officers” and function as law enforcement with use of force, handcuff restraints, arrests, and referrals into the juvenile justice system. All of these tactics are applied disproportionately to youth of color and students with disabilities — many for minor offenses. At the center of this system of injustice are the teachers with whom children interact every day, whose attitudes and pedagogy influence the trajectory of their students’ lives, and who often use school police for minor behavior issues. An overwhelming 80% of educators are white, and the vast majority are women. Thus, white women have an overwhelming role in the STPP and the criminalization of children of color. Culturally ingrained fear of Black men gives “permission” for white women to justify any actions needed to keep them obedient, submissive, and “in line.” This includes white female teachers feeling entitled to physically abuse Black children in their care for any perceived infraction, with little concern for the humanity of these innocent beings.

Additionally, Black children with white teachers are less likely to have their potential acknowledged and realized. Studies have shown that Black students with just ONE Black teacher are more likely to be successful and to be identified as gifted. To improve outcomes for students of color, it is imperative that the conditions that push Black teachers out of education are righted.

One of the ways educators push children of color through the STPP is by holding children of color to different standards of behavior and disproportionately punishing them. DeVos once noted her belief that underachievement is linked to a lack of values and character development. She refused to commit to civil rights data collection during confirmation hearings. Coupled with AG Sessions’s lust for policing, these two set a dangerous stage for schoolchildren.

White educators, take responsibility

  • Examine the racism within and decenter whiteness in the classroom. Some of the essential responsibilities are summarized in these actions for white educators to make their schools anti-racist.
  • Interrupt the STPP and take action in your schools. Check out this this guide for a step-by-step breakdown of actions for restorative, rather than punitive practices, and this more in depth guide for implementing restorative justice policies in your schools. Share the guide with your coworkers and host discussions and workshops in your school.
  • Join the Dignity in Schools Campaign, which unites community members, teachers, and advocates to end racism and the STPP through local initiatives, and state and national policies.

Support organizations fighting to end racism in education

  • Black Lives Matter has a broad platform that includes a road map for student-, parent-, and community- control of K-12 schools. They advocate for structural change to re-shape students’ lives, opportunities, and future. Several chapters engage with local events like Washington, D.C.’s outreach to the community for after-school programs and schoolbook donations, Portland’s literacy program, and Florida’s Student Lives Matter workshops. Donate to your local chapter or here.
  • Donate to Padres & Jóvenes Unidos (Parents & Youth United), based in Denver, which is working on multiple campaigns from capacity-building to policy change for educational equality and racial justice. With the increased ICE presence in Denver (and across the country), this organization has been on the frontlines of educating students and families with Know Your Rights workshops. Donate here.
  • Support representation and the professional development of teachers of color by donating to Teachers of Color Preparatory Institute, which offers a professional pathway for teachers of color who want to develop their educational professionalism, community involvement, effectiveness as change agents, and commitment as lifelong educators. They partner with schools in numerous states to increase diversity and representation of the students and communities they support. Donate here.