Reclaiming Our Way promoting the well-being of African American children & families


Criminalizing Our Children in Schools and Classrooms – A Tragedy and Pattern

Schools, and the communities that sanction their policies and practices, are increasingly criminalizing our children and adolescents.

From yesterday's Democracy Now...

Cops in the Classroom: South Carolina Incident Highlights Growing Police Presence in Schools

We turn now to shocking new videos that have surfaced from inside a South Carolina high school where a police officer has been caught on camera slamming a teenage girl to the ground and dragging the student out of the classroom. The videos, which went viral on Monday, appear to show Deputy Sheriff Ben Fields approaching the student, who is seated at her desk, then wrapping his arm around her neck and flipping her and her desk to the ground. He then appears to drag her out of the classroom. The student was arrested. Another student who filmed the assault was also arrested and held on a $1,000 bail. The incident reportedly began when the student refused to give her teacher her phone. The incident is the latest in a series of cases of police officers in schools using excessive force against students. - Update: South Carolina authorities have announced the officer, Ben Fields, has been fired from his position.  (approximately 12 minutes)

Texas Student Spent 52 Days in Coma After Being Tased by Police at School

In one of the most shocking cases of police brutality inside a school, 17-year-old Noe Niño de Rivera spent 52 days in a medically induced coma after police tased him at school in November 2013. He was permanently brain injured. Last year Bastrop County in Texas settled a federal lawsuit for $775,000 with his family. We speak to his attorney, Adam Loewy.  (approximately 6 minutes)

Criminalizing the Classroom: Inside the School-to-Prison Pipeline

New York City has more than 5,000 police officers patrolling the city’s schools—that’s more than the combined number of school guidance counselors and social workers. Nationwide, more than 17,000 officers work in the school. What happens when students are arrested in the classroom? We look at what many experts call the "school-to-prison pipeline." (approximately 13 minutes)


How A Science Experiment Got A Student Arrested

African American students around the country are being steered along a path that pushes students out of schools and onto a pathway - a "pipeline" - characterized by increasingly punitive levels of involvement with the juvenile/criminal justice system.

To illustrate the point, The Advancement Project produced the short video below highlighting the recent experience of a high school student in Florida. Many of you likely heard and/or read about this tragic experience in Florida last year.

This is the story of Kiera Wilmot, who in her efforts to further her education, found herself caught up in the school-to-prison pipeline -- arrested for a science experiment due to unfair disciplinary policies run without reason or conscious. While Kiera was eventually allowed to return to school and will graduate from high school in June 2014, no student should have to go through what she went through just to explore her love of science.

While Kiera has since finished high school, she and her family continue to deal with the residual effects of the entire ordeal. While she was never officially charged, this episode remains on an official arrest record, which typically remains for 5 years. The family continues to push for changes so that she can finally move forward without any official record of this incident.

Note, however, that while it's outrageous that Kiera has to go through this, she's fortunate in many ways, as we have young people around the country who are targeted by these zero tolerance policies, and whose futures don't appear to be as promising.

This is precisely why we all have to more fully understand the nature and scope of these policies, and how they're being applied in our local schools and school systems.


Pedro Noguera: Closing the Gap – Helping Students Achieve Success (Penn State)

What can be done to help students achieve success? NYU professor Pedro Noguera discusses education's most pressing problems.  Approximately 30 minutes.  November 2013.

Dr. Noguera is one of our most insightful and passionate researchers actively working to make schools more responsive to our children and families, and thus far more effective in producing high levels of achievement among African American children.

The following are among the numerous critical points Pedro Noguera touches on during this interview and discussion:

  • We frequently use poverty as an excuse for why we are poorly serving large numbers of children. There are examples of high performing and high poverty schools. We've studied what they do right. We should replicate those strategies if we are serious about getting better outcomes for children.
  • We have invested in prisons at far higher rates compared to education. This trend works against our national interest, and undermines our goal of supporting children.
  • We should be investing in early childhood education.
  • Schools should encourage the natural curiosity of children. This will help us get them excited about learning.
  • Schools are hyper-focused on discipline, and we're using forms of punishment that reinforce or exacerbate the problematic behaviors rather than change them.
  • We have to focus on engaging students and building character, not criticizing and tearing them down.
  • Schools can and should welcome parents into the school and the classroom in very constructive ways.
  • Just because parents aren't formally educated doesn't mean they don't affirmatively support high levels of achievement.
  • Kids thrive best when they have supportive, nurturing relationships with caring adults... who genuinely want to engage with them. Children tend to be self-motivated under these conditions.
  • We have to routinely analyze and assess every school's strengths and weaknesses, and work on the weaknesses. Too often we use assessments as weapons against teachers and students, and not enough as a tool for targeting enhanced supervision, support and instruction when and where needed.
  • Expecting better outcomes, understanding and responding to the complexity of challenges facing teachers and schools, and directing our resources to support improvements are all key ingredients to succesful improvement efforts.
  • The work of creating high quality schools is complex, and so must our policy proposals be if they are going to be useful.
  • Most parents want their children to do well, even when they don't know exactly what supports or detracts from that goal. We have to remind parents how they can help their children to be successful.

I'd also encourage all who are interested to visit the companion webpage for this interview for additional interesting discussion and resources.


Saving Our Boys, Part 2: Advocating for Education

Here's the follow-up discussion to the previous post, Saving Our Sons, with the same three researchers and advocates.  This piece is a bit longer, approximately 60 minutes.

The following are among some of the important points they're raising:

  • Children want to be respected by their teachers, and are particularly responsive when they sense a genuine connection with the teacher or other school staff.
  • The content and curriculum need to have practical relevance to the children's lives.
  • Strategies that allow children to problem solve and explore/engage their own community are particularly effective.
  • Black male teachers and school professionals are very important; not only as teachers, but also the impact their presence has on the school climate and the dialogue between teachers and school administrators about students and their families.
  • Research is important, and can also be misleading.  We have to use current research and data, and understand the research and data within the context in which is conducted/obtained.  For example, youth violence is indeed problematic, yet it is also less prevalent today than it has been in at least the last two generations.
  • We must be attentive to the family protective factors that really promote excellence in schools.
  • We have to be mindful of the consistent restatement of racial disparities and problems among.
  • The solution for an inexperienced and underqualified workforce is a more experienced and more qualified workforce.  (My note... This is most acutely relevant for many of the schools located within lower-income communities and/or schools that are lower-performing, many of which have a greater share of newer and less-experienced teachers.  They may very well be/become excellent teachers, but our schools should not be treated as laboratories.)
  • We know enough about what effective schools look like and do, and we have many examples of effective schools within lower-income communities, within African American communities, and among children with various types of challenging backgrounds.  This should drive our school reform and educational improvement efforts.  Educational excellence is absolutely achievable, and happens in many places every single day.

This is definitely worth  listening to, and a conversation we should all be continuing in our own families and communities.  Keep in mind a key point that Dr. Ivory Toldson continues to make, however, which is that we need to have these conversations with real and up-to-date information (including data and research) so that we're not trying to improve schools in 2013 with an understanding of student experiences from 2002.  Some of the outcome and experience patterns may very well persist, but the context continues to evolve.

More Lifestyle Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with CBM Chat on BlogTalkRadio

Saving Our Boys – Concerned Black Men National

Below is a 30-minute audio podcast of three advocates and scholars working tirelessly for more accountable and responsive systems and opportunities for young African American males.

The big take-away here is that our young boys are not in fact seen and treated as young boys and adolescents - with the right to experience a normal childhood and developmental process, but are seen through a prism of fear and criminality by the larger American society.

Change and success for our young African American boys depends on us (parents and extended family, or those others of us in positions of authority) becoming far more consistent, deliberate and thoughtful in our advocacy and championing of them - and with a sense of urgency.  We have to create opportunities for our young children, and hold others accountable for doing the same.  We have to be our children's biggest advocates!

Here's the 30-minute CBM National Podcast from July 2013...

CBM National Executive Director George Garrow is joined by Dr. Ivory Toldson, editor of The Journal of Negro Education, and Dr. James L. Moore III, director of the Todd Anthony Bell National Resource Center on the African American Male, to discuss solutions to issues facing our young Black boys and men, what can be done at the highest levels of government, business and society to help them achieve and succeed in America.


Find Additional Lifestyle Podcasts with CBM Chat on BlogTalkRadio