On Teachers Calling Kids “Future Criminals” and the School to Prison Pipeline

by Latoya Peterson

School to Prison Pipeline

A first grade teacher in Paterson, New Jersey was recently put on administrative leave after she took to the internet to vent her frustrations about work. According to NBC New York, the teacher was suspended for allegedly making Facebook comments that her six-year-old students are “future criminals” and referring to herself as a “warden,” according to school officials.”

Much of the handwringing over at Jezebel concerned the fate of the poor, poor teacher who probably just had a bad day. At Jezebel, Margaret Hartmann concludes her piece by saying:

It’s horrible to hear about an adult disrespecting the children in her care, but it also casts a bad light on teachers, who for the most part, got into the profession because they want to help children succeed. But that’s not news — that’s their job, and they do it every single day.

Are teachers definitely our undersung heroes? Yes.  Do they often work long hours at thankless tasks in order to make their children’s lives better?  Oh yes.

But do all teachers treat all children the same? No, no, no.

My radar pinged when I heard the term criminals employed, so I checked the demographics of Paterson.  And my suspicions were borne out.  According to Neighborhood Scout:

Paterson is a blue-collar town, with 35.4% of people working in blue-collar occupations, while the average in America is just 24.7%. Overall, Paterson is a city of sales and office workers, service providers, and production and manufacturing workers. There are especially a lot of people living in Paterson who work in office and administrative support jobs (18.20%), sales jobs (9.45%), and building maintenance and grounds keeping (6.25%).

The population of Paterson has a very low overall level of education: only 8.19% of people over 25 hold a 4-year college degree or higher.

The per capita income in Paterson in 2000 was $13,257, which is low income relative to New Jersey and the nation. This equates to an annual income of $53,028 for a family of four.

Paterson is an extremely ethnically-diverse city. The people who call Paterson home come from a variety of different races and ancestries. People of Hispanic or Latino origin are the most prevalent group in Paterson, accounting for 50.17% of the city’s residents (people of Hispanic or Latino origin can be of any race). The most prevalent race in Paterson is White, followed by Asian. Important ancestries of people in Paterson include Italian and Jamaican.

Paterson also has a high percentage of its population that was born in another country: 32.79%.

The most common language spoken in Paterson is Spanish. Some people also speak English.

But that’s just a coincidence, right?

Maybe this was just a bad day for this teacher – but the problem is that bad days in public serving positions can have huge, lingering consequences.  And from what other administrators and school advocates are saying, the suspended teacher wasn’t the only one.

The New York Times provides more background information, explaining:

Irene Sterling, president of the Paterson Education Fund, a nonprofit group that supports the local school community, said parents were angry about the teacher’s comments because anyone, including her own students, could have read the negative characterizations. She said it highlighted a lack of commitment by some teachers. “It’s horrible,” she said. “And unfortunately, I don’t think she’s the only teacher in Paterson who thinks that way.”

The Paterson district, with 28,000 students and 2,425 teachers, has long been one of New Jersey’s most troubled school systems; it was taken over by the state in 1991 because of fiscal mismanagement and poor academic performance.

And NBC NY quotes the Board of Education president who makes other saddening disclosures:

Paterson Board of Education President Thomas Best said the alleged comments were “disheartening and unacceptable.”

“I think it’s extremely disappointing that we have teachers in the classroom who are responsible for ensuring that their students have a bright future not even giving those children a chance,” he said.

It’s also not the first time a teacher has made such comments about students, he said.

“Overall we have a good teaching force, but I’ve heard comments like this before,” said Best. “It’s not on Facebook, but a lot of times the kids are referred to as ‘animals.’”

If we like to believe the tales that it just takes one teacher to make a difference, one shining light acting as a beacon out of the darkness for children struggling in school and in life, then why is it so hard to apply that logic to teachers who make negative comments? That their dismissal could act like a wrecking ball? That some teachers could negatively impact the lives of their students?

When you call a six-year old a “future criminal,” you are speeding that child along a path that is tough to escape – the school to prison pipeline.  Impacting low income students of color the hardest, here’s how the pipeline manifests in different communities.

From the New York Civil Liberties Union:

The School to Prison Pipeline (STPP) is a nationwide system of local, state, and federal education and public safety policies that pushes students out of school  and into the criminal justice system. The system disproportionately targets youth of color and youth with disabilities. Inequities in areas such as school discipline, policing practices, high-stakes testing, wealth and healthcare distribution, school “grading” systems, and the prison-industrial complex all contribute to the Pipeline.

The STPP operates directly and indirectly. Directly, schools send their students into the Pipeline through zero tolerance policies, and involving the police in minor discipline incidents. All too often school rules are enforced through metal detectors, pat-downs and frisks, arrests, and referrals to the juvenile justice system. And schools pressured to raise graduation and testing numbers can sometimes artificially achieve this by pushing out low-performing students into GED programs and the juvenile justice system.

Indirectly, schools push students towards the criminal justice system by excluding them from the learning environment and isolating them from their peer groups through suspension, expulsion, ineffective retention policies, transfers, and high-stakes testing requirements. [...]

Suspensions indirectly feed the Pipeline

  • A child who has been suspended is more likely to fall behind in school, be retained a grade, drop out of high school, commit a crime, and become incarcerated as an adult[3]
  • The best demographic indicators of children who will be suspended are not the type or severity of the crime, but the color of their skin, their special education status, the school they go to, and whether they have been suspended before[4]

From California Rural Legal Assistance:

CRLA has identified educational disparities in our communities of service that affect Latino children and children of limited English proficiency, in particular.  When school- and district-wide statistics relating to discipline, class assignment, dropout rate, graduation and enrollment in college are tracked by race, ethnicity and language it is clear that a disproportionate number of Latinos and limited English speaking children are not succeeding in California’s rural schools.  Education experts and advocates throughout the country have acknowledged similar disparities affecting other children of color and children enrolled in special education programs and numerous studies have demonstrated a positive correlation between failure in school and a higher chance of ending up in the criminal justice system and called this trend the “school to prison pipeline.”  CRLA is committed to addressing these disparities which result, not only in an increased chance of incarceration, but limit the work and life opportunities for these children.

From the LA Progressive, reporting on “Plugging Pasedena’s School-to-Prison Pipeline“:

“A black boy born in 2001 in America has a one in three chance of going to prison,” said moderator Saudeka Shabazz. “For a Latino boy, the odds are one in six.”

The school-to-prison pipeline is a set of policies combined with failing institutions that lead young men of color to prison or violent early death, according to Shabazz, a Berkeley grad who worked in gang intervention before becoming an outreach coordinator for the Children’s Defense Fund. She cited two early factors that put children into the pipeline:

  • Health and mental health access: “Low birth weigh children often have learning delays or disabilities,” she said. “And poor mothers get less prenatal care, which leads to these problems.”
  • Early childhood education: Children who get early education are higher achievers later on in life, according to Shabazz. “Teachers mark children early if they can’t keep up.”

Poverty works hand-in-glove with racial discrimination to put children of color behind the eight ball long before they reach high school.

From Reclaiming Futures’ report on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s publication “”Suspended Education: Urban Middle Schools in Crisis:”

[A]fter reviewing over 30 years of data from nearly 10,000 middle schools nationwide, it concludes that suspension is over-used as a disciplinary tool, and that youth of color — black males especially — are suspended far out of proportion to their numbers.

The authors looked specifically at types of suspensions where school staff could exercise discretion — incidents of fighting, disruptive behavior, and so on. They analyzed how many youth were suspended and broke down differences by race/ethnicity, and gender. What they learned was appalling: suspension rates have nearly doubled for students of all races/ethnicities since 1973; African American, Latino, and American Indian youth were suspended at higher rates than White youth; six percent of all black students were suspended in 1973, compared with 15 percent in 2006; and a breathtaking 28.3% of black males were suspended in 2006, compared with 10% of White males.

When researchers looked at the 18 largest urban school districts, they found that most “had several schools that suspended more than 50% of a given racial/gender group.” They even found schools that suspended more than half of their White and Hispanic female students. [...]

The disparate impact on youth of color, and black youth in particular, makes this a civil rights issue, the authors say. Here’s why:

Research on student behavior, race, and discipline has found no evidence that African-American over-representation in school suspension is due to higher rates of misbehavior (McCarthy and Hoge, 1987; McFadden et al., 1992; Shaw & Braden, 1990; Wu et al., 1982). Skiba et al. (2002) reviewed racial and gender disparities in school punishments in an urban setting, and found that White students were referred to the office significantly more frequently for offenses that appear more capable of objective documentation (e.g., smoking, vandalism, leaving without permission, and obscene language). African-American students, however, were referred more often for disrespect, excessive noise, threat, and loitering - behaviors that would seem to require more subjective judgment on the part of the referring agent. In short, there is no evidence that racial disparities in school discipline can be explained through higher rates of disruption among African-American students.

And from Fairtest.org’s position paper on No Child Left Behind and The School to Prison Pipeline, released March 2011:

In the nine years since Congress reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), startling growth has occurred in what is often described as the “School-to-Prison Pipeline”1 – the use of educational policies and practices that have the effect of pushing students, especially students of color and students with disabilities, out of schools and toward the juve- nile and criminal justice systems. This phenomenon has proved incredibly damaging to students, families, and communities. It has also proved tremendously costly, not only in terms of lost human potential but also in dollars, as states struggle with the soaring costs of police, courts, and incarceration amidst continuing economic difficulties. Yet far too little emphasis is being placed upon the pipeline crisis, its causes, and its consequences within most of the discussion around federal education policy and the reauthorization of the ESEA.
The swelling of the pipeline has many causes. But as Congress works to reauthorize the ESEA, it is essential to examine how NCLB itself has contributed to the pipeline phenomenon. Congress designed NCLB to hold schools accountable for student performance, correctly paying specific attention to differentials in outcomes by race, socioeconomic status, disability, and English language proficiency. However, the law focused its accountability frame- work almost exclusively on students’ standardized test performance, placed punitive sanctions on struggling schools without providing enough tools to actually improve their performance, and failed to address significant funding and resource disparities among our nation’s schools. As a result, NCLB had the effect of encouraging low-performing schools to meet benchmarks by narrowing curriculum and instruction and de-prioritizing the educational opportunities of many students. Indeed, No Child Left Behind’s “get-tough” approach to accountability has led to more students being left even further behind, thus feeding the dropout crisis and the School-to-Prison Pipeline. [...]

The sharp rise in the use of all of these practices in communities across the country over the last decade represents a prioritization of swift and severe punishment of students over the thoughtful consideration of how to better meet their educational needs, such as through academic and disciplinary interventions, counseling services, health services, special education programs, and other “wraparound” services. As a result, huge numbers of students have been put on a path to academic failure that is difficult to interrupt and often has devastating long-term consequences.

Teachers are often unjustly blamed for the failures of an overburdened and underfunded system.  However, let’s not pretend that all students are on a level and equal playing field, or that racism and perception of a student’s background can’t play a role in how we describe, view, or treat these kids.  First graders are six years old.  Six. Years. Old. No one’s life is set in stone at any age, much less the tender childhood years.  So let’s take a second to think of the children before immediately jumping to the teacher’s defense.

 

 

(Image Credit: The Youth Justice Coalition via Suspension Stories)

 

 

 

 

  • Lorenzo

    Surely racism is playing a significant role in the problem in the public school system, as well as every aspect of American society. However, common sense is lacking in the teaching methods of many schools today as well. I’m not sure how broad this is nationally, but locally in TEXAS compared to where and when I grew up in Philadelphia Pa. (North Philly Ghetto) the children are being taught to read using a method called “word memorization” rather than the phonetic method that was used when I was in elementary school in the 1960′s. (the children are not being taught to think) I have been volunteering in the Dallas Independent School District for the past 20 years, and there is no consistent structure of ASSEMBLY PROGRAMS designed to address issues of concern that include the individual well being of the child, as there was in every grade level when I was in public school. There are social promotion issues, that encourages children to just NOT disrupt the class and they will be passed to the next grade level, which practically guarantees failure for the child. Unfortunately, one of the very serious problems for the teacher is behavior problems, which I sympathize with the teacher. Sadly, there are actually some teachers that target children to provoke them to act up, knowing that they will send them to the office with a referral for disciplinary actions, because they do not like the child for some personal reason. Teachers are people to, so some of them are good people and some of them have bad intentions. The problems are multiple. Unfortunately, the TRUTH be told, if every school age child received STRAIGHT A’s on their report card and other special tests given to children, there are NOT enough higher education facilities and class rooms for ALL of them, thus one of the reasons the system allows MANY children to fall through the CRACKS. “It breaks my heart” A Black man who cares.

  • k-

    and what about kids with developmental disabilities that manifest themselves in behaviors considered “disruptive” or “disrespectful?” or kids who don’t get breakfast in the morning and are struggling to sit still and quietly in class while they’re hungry? or maybe this teacher doesn’t understand something about how kids in her class have been socialized, so what she deems unacceptable behavior might be just fine to their families and neighbors.

    in other words, why be so quick to assume the teacher was even justified in criticizing her students, when her expression of that frustration was so out of line?

    • little mixed girl

      what about the kid who doesn’t like the color red? and the teacher wore red? what about the kid that had a headache?
      anyone can “what about” until the cows come home. the basic fact is that we don’t know what the kids in that class were like.

      in an ideal world, the school would be well equipped to handle the needs of various learners, including developmentally disabled children. what i can infer from the post is that this school district was probably strapped for cash, and they didn’t have the resources available to attend to the individual needs of every child.

      as to no breakfast, i usually didn’t have breakfast. at that time we were getting WIC, so it was more about me getting up late than literal lack of food. but by the time i got into middle and high school it really was about lack of money (and time) for breakfast. but not eating didn’t give me an excuse to go wild in class.

      and as a poor person who grew up in section 8 housing surrounded by people who were probably on welfare and who were certainly poor, i take issue with the whole “in their area, that behaviour is ok, so the teacher shouldn’t be angry”.
      i’m going to guess that a large chunk of what this teacher deemed “unacceptable behavior” is what most people would deem “unacceptable”. just because we are poor doesn’t mean that we are uncivilized animals.

      if anything, i see poor parents demanding respect from their children (“sit down and shut up before i slap you back to yesterday!”). the problem is that a large group of those parents don’t teach their kids to respect the teacher/be “good” in school because they see themselves as customers and the school is to cater to them.

      like i said, this is a vicious cycle. if a teacher is to believe, like you stated, that this behaviour is typical of the student’s family and neighborhood, then the teacher isn’t going to try and help the kid out. (“that’s just how they are, no working with that”)

      if the parents think that the teacher doesn’t respect them, then the parents aren’t going to give two squirts of piss of the kid is disrespectful to the teacher.
      both groups need to work with each other. being poor is not an excuse to check out of your kid’s life. and i can’t believe that “the parents are too busy” is being used as justification for parents not investing in their children’s education…

  • http://profiles.google.com/sartorialnerd Sartorial Nerd

    Things like this are why I jumped the Jezebel ship. As a teacher, I know that what we do and say matters to the young people we deal with every day. This teacher’s actions were completely inexcusable and I find it disgusting that Jezebel would jump to her defense. It’s willfully ignorant and just plain lazy. Thank you for this post – it’s something that definitely needs to be talked about more.

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  • Lyonside

    Oh hell no, she shouldn’t only teach white kids – what, and give those kids the wrong impression that their friends and classmates and neighbors or family members (or worse, those people they only see on TV or mowing their lawn) are doomed to prison?

    Nope – you just shouldn’t teach… anywhere… ever.

  • inkst

    A couple of things. First of all, I did not see this post as any kind of attack on just this teacher. In fact, Latoya cites so many different studies that I don´t understand how you can say “we need to look at the system” when that´s what the post just did. It, in fact, illuminates how “the system” plays out on a daily basis. You say they are “destined for the system,” which is exactly what this teacher said. It´s a self-fulfilling prophecy. You write off a kid or group of kids when they are in first grade, and so you don´t think twice about isolating them, sending them to the office, suspending them or expelling them. They´re going to jail anyway. Yes, their home life is the root of the issue, as well as the system that perpetuates the daily traumas often caused by poverty and especially for those who live in poverty and are people of color. But kids spend upwards of 40 hours a week in school. Based on that alone, it is clearly an environment that can have a huge impact. But we don´t just have anecdotal evidence. In this post alone, we have a bevy of statistics supporting the fact that a teacher´s or school administrator´s attitude towards a child does matter. Like I said earlier, part of that attitude is a product of the system, but in this immediate moment, what difference does that make to the child at the receiving end of biased punishment?

    Also, the pipeline is a class issue in many ways, after all, the white people in prison aren´t rich folks. However, race cannot be downplayed when, again, in this post alone, statistics have been cited across the board in the disparity between punishment based on race. Not to mention the overrepresentation of people of color in prison. Look at any state´s population breakdown, then look at the prison population breakdown. It´s incredible how any given minority is the majority in prison. That´s a race issue.

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  • http://www.examiner.com/family-in-new-york/rahela-choudhury RCHOUDH

    Great take Latoya on such a complex and urgent issue. It’s terrible that when it comes to discussing about education policy in the US, almost no attention is given to the school-to-prison pipeline. The authorities simply don’t want to think about the institutional factors work to hold certain kids back from receiving a decent education and a chance to achieve a better life.

    Teachers really are overworked and overwhelmed and I can see why their work is valued by society, much like the work of other public servants such as police officers. But based on this admiration over their jobs, it seems like mainstream society is all too ready to excuse and overlook individual teachers and police officers’ bad actions towards other communities. Hollywood certainly hasn’t helped in this regard with movies like the one Michelle Pheiffer starred in about courageous white teachers going in to “save” minority students. And whenever teachers muck up like the one mentioned above, you can expect some dimwits out there actually excusing the teacher’s actions by actually blaming the students themselves as well as their parents!

  • Jeremy

    The teacher ideally should not have said what she did, but honestly, I think that our outrage should not rest fully upon the teacher. She was simply pushed, perhaps not even by her students but rather by the school administration employing her, to the point of calling out something that she was witnessing. I mean, is it the individual teacher’ fault that the school is being run like a prison already? I admit that I am not from Patterson, but if this district is anything like most other small town public schools I have seem, it ALREADY had more than its share of razor wire around it, as well as prison-esque architecture and a humiliating set of rules imposed on small children that you would not find in private schools or public ones in affluent areas. I’d put money on the teacher’s comment being inspired more by her employers than by her students, since the problem is systemic and by no means limited just to teachers.

    Sorry for the anonymous post- I am posting from my phone and it’s too hard to make a login right now. My name is Jeremy and I am in Portland, OR. Twenty-something white male, who went to public high school in a town similar to Patterson, but in Texas.

  • River

    You’ve done such a good job of research, but I don’t see the crime stats for this community?

    Could you highlight that part of your post. Thanks.

    • Anonymous

      You can easily hop over to the link I provided at Neighborhood watch and play around with the stats and numbers. The school district is not easily distinguished from all of Paterson and the stats are different from area to area. That being said, overall crime in Paterson is higher than the national average.

      And once again, the children being discussed ARE SIX YEARS OLD. They would not be included in the crime stats for the area, as six year olds generally aren’t able to get around town on their own, don’t have the dexterity to rob people, and are too small to inflict violence on the level that teens and adults can.

      • Dan Waters

        I think the most a six year old can do is take play-do from the play area…

        • Yucayuca

          I have taught in an urban school for 5 years, grades K-2. There are a lot worse things that six year olds can do. I had a little girl one year, who was identified as emotionally disturbed but still in a mainstream class with no special ed. teacher, throw a chair at another student.

          I’ve had a six year old steal my cell phone from out of my desk, give me the finger, storm out of class and run out of the building. One year, a little boy used to run out of class, then stand in the hallway and throw his entire body weight against the door until an administrator came and got him.

          I’m not excusing the teacher’s comments, she definitely should not have posted it on facebook. But please don’t act like 6 year olds are capable of no wrong. Unfortunately, due to their home environments, many kids make it to first grade with grown-up sized baggage. I’m not saying it’s their fault, but it can be very, very hard on the teacher, especially if parents and/or administration are unsupportive.

          • Anonymous

            I’m not saying they aren’t capable of doing wrong. I’m saying they are kids. Young. Malleable. Many kids are emotionally disturbed – what happens to them in life is largely a function of if they can get help or not. (Or maybe that’s just my too much exposure to foster care side talking.)

            Like I said, teachers are often overburndened and underpaid, particularly in a school system that would prefer to streamline costs by acting as if all children’s needs are the same. But they are still kids. They are just starting their lives. It’s not fair, for anyone involved, that some kids are going through so much, learning so many scary things at that age. But I’m never going to stop believing that people flourish in the right environment and that the onus is on us, as a society, to help ensure that people who start life disadvantaged aren’t condemned to stay that way. Especially by those on the front lines of defense.

  • http://www.scribblesandsonnets.blogspot.com Jessica Isabel

    I live pretty close to Paterson too. The second I saw the name of the school district I was like, damn, this is gonna be racist.

    Gov. Christie sure as shit isn’t helping.

  • http://blog.kristincraiglai.com Kristin Craiglai

    Yes, that’s all I can say. So much research has shown that teacher prejudices can become self-fulfilling prophecies. If kids are being labeled at such an early age what other outcome could you expect? (okay, I guess that wasn’t all I could say)

  • http://blog.kristincraiglai.com Kristin Craiglai

    Yes, that’s all I can say. So much research has shown that teacher prejudices can become self-fulfilling prophecies. If kids are being labeled at such an early age what other outcome could you expect? (okay, I guess that wasn’t all I could say)

  • Harmolecule

    Teachers can do a world of good; teachers can also cause irreparable harm, even for the white, middle-class, straight, cis, able-bodied, etc etc. (it’s that whole position of power/authority thing…). My privilege undeniably, no question, shielded me from a lot of obstacles and barriers, but I was also infinitely lucky to be raised by two wonderful teachers, who managed to protect me from the idiocies of others less gifted. I didn’t even know about these stories until university, when they couldn’t hurt anymore. My second grade teacher objected to an Anglophone being placed in her French classroom (I’m Canadian…) but my parents fought for my right to be there. Her argument, at the age of 7 was that I’d never be able to learn a second language. This was refuted by my parents: a) it was my third language and b) there are very few limits on what kids can learn, aside from those imposed on them. The second incident involved the Board psychologist assigned to administer our eighth grade IQ testing. My mother refused to let him discuss my results with me – apparently I had “failed” the test. He even noted in my file that I was “only” suited to secretarial college or non-intellectual labour. I seriously don’t think I’d be sitting here (ahem, procrastinating at work *cough*) with an M.A. if I had had that particular chat with the pysch. Thinking about how much I internalized the notion that girls (and I in particular) sucked at math when NO ONE ever told me that, who knows what I would have done with that particular “educator’s” take on my capacity to learn… When you start piling on the gender essentializations and racializations and petty prejudices and and and, it’s sometimes a wonder so many kids even survive, let alone succeed!

  • Harmolecule

    Teachers can do a world of good; teachers can also cause irreparable harm, even for the white, middle-class, straight, cis, able-bodied, etc etc. (it’s that whole position of power/authority thing…). My privilege undeniably, no question, shielded me from a lot of obstacles and barriers, but I was also infinitely lucky to be raised by two wonderful teachers, who managed to protect me from the idiocies of others less gifted. I didn’t even know about these stories until university, when they couldn’t hurt anymore. My second grade teacher objected to an Anglophone being placed in her French classroom (I’m Canadian…) but my parents fought for my right to be there. Her argument, at the age of 7 was that I’d never be able to learn a second language. This was refuted by my parents: a) it was my third language and b) there are very few limits on what kids can learn, aside from those imposed on them. The second incident involved the Board psychologist assigned to administer our eighth grade IQ testing. My mother refused to let him discuss my results with me – apparently I had “failed” the test. He even noted in my file that I was “only” suited to secretarial college or non-intellectual labour. I seriously don’t think I’d be sitting here (ahem, procrastinating at work *cough*) with an M.A. if I had had that particular chat with the pysch. Thinking about how much I internalized the notion that girls (and I in particular) sucked at math when NO ONE ever told me that, who knows what I would have done with that particular “educator’s” take on my capacity to learn… When you start piling on the gender essentializations and racializations and petty prejudices and and and, it’s sometimes a wonder so many kids even survive, let alone succeed!

  • Anonymous

    Paterson is also where the movie “Lean on Me” was set, based on a true story. (I grew up right nearby. One of the big things that movie totally glossed over was from the scene near the beginning, where Joe Clark gets a list from the teachers of all the “troublemakers” in school and expels all of them. There was a lot of controversy over whether that was the right thing to do, and I remember seeing an article maybe 10 years later that said that some huge proportion of those kids who’d been kicked out were now in prison.)

  • Anonymous

    Paterson is also where the movie “Lean on Me” was set, based on a true story. (I grew up right nearby. One of the big things that movie totally glossed over was from the scene near the beginning, where Joe Clark gets a list from the teachers of all the “troublemakers” in school and expels all of them. There was a lot of controversy over whether that was the right thing to do, and I remember seeing an article maybe 10 years later that said that some huge proportion of those kids who’d been kicked out were now in prison.)

  • inkst

    Great post. Your last statement hits it right on the head. As someone who has worked as a teacher and in other capacities with public school systems and youth of color, I know firsthand that the “system” creates a space where a teacher will feel beat down and completely disillusioned with her students. That said, that is an explanation, not an excuse. And whether or not the teacher herself is a product of a larger, systemic issue, in what way does that matter to the kids she or someone like her works with everyday? The pipeline definitely needs to be addressed as well as the racism and classism in schools that keeps it running, but that does not mean there is no individual accountability.

  • http://DeadAmericanDream.blogspot.com AngryBroomstick

    I automatically suspected that racism was at play when I heard about that teacher making the awful comment on Facebook. For the most part, I had great teachers, but there was this one (white) teacher who was really sweet to me but she was so fucking cruel and mean to my fellow Muslim classmate (who was a dark skinned Egyptian male). He did nothing wrong, we were best friends and we did everything together. She often accused him of cheating when we all knew he never cheated on any tests or quizzes while she turned a blind eye on a white classmate who actually cheated right in front of our eyes. It was blatant racism, pure and simple.

    Sickening.