I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Home to Prison Pipeline, Part I

Over the last several months in the Escambia County School District we have had speakers at our meetings that have chastised us for being a part of a "school to prison pipeline" At the last meeting, we had one very polite gentleman smile as he said he was concerned and did not want the Escambia County School District to be the "Entree before Prison" I've been thinking a lot about these various comments and looking into different reasons for what some claim to be our "school to prison pipeline" But I believe that term is inaccurate, disingenuous, and inflammatory. After all, we have students for 7 hours a day, less than a third of the day. We don't have them on weekends, we don't have students over the summer. So is it really a "School to Prison Pipeline?" or, is a more accurate description a "home to prison pipeline?" I'm going with the latter. The speakers who have been showing up at our meetings pointing fingers never discuss the home lives many of these students have, and how these dysfunctional environments are the real culprit--not the schools. The schools are being scapegoated. If you come to our school to learn, you will get an education, you will be given the opportunity to succeed, you will get what you need to be successful-as these students did that we met last week at the student of the year awards. We don't select students that are minorities and set out to treat them differently, more harshly. That is hogwash and anyone who thinks that needs to look first at facts,

 and then their heart, and then finally in the mirror. Like it or not, some of these blamers and accusers cannot or will not see the reality that  we are living in an ever-expanding, accepting,  post-racial society. This reality about our nation being more accepting and embracing of diversity leaves no more monsters under the bed for the folks who point fingers to hunt for! "Oh NO!" As an example-at our last school board meeting, a really great illustration of this post-racial environment was on display: The chairman of the board for our school district is a  Black female (and the first ever black female chairman of the ECSD). We recognized, in attendance, the Commanding Officer of NAS Pensacola, who is a Black man. Our Deputy Superintendent of Schools, the #2 man of 8500 full and part-time employees is Black. To top it off the chairman of the 1/2 cent sales tax watchdog committee, the man responsible for oversight of our $22Million tax funded capital funded budget was present, and he is black! Black leaders were all over the auditorium that night! We did a proclamation in honor of and support of the anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education and we have elected a Black man twice now to the highest office in the land--the Presidency! So yes, we are in a post-racial environment-- but some people want to keep the fight alive for reasons that confound me.

Most alarming, they want to make things about race when there are other, more logical explanations for the examples these accusers point to as evidence of 'Implicit racism". School discipline is one area where these folks love to make accusations. But if you read Heather MacDonald's article on the subject, and more importantly if you read this study about why there are disparities in school discipline between races, the logic overtakes the emotional rhetoric and we can begin to change the dialogue from talking about problems at school and focus these discussions where they are desperately needed instead---talking about problems in the homes of some of these youth! It is a tough subject that must be addressed before fingers get pointed at a school as the conduit to prison. Everyone knows, for many youth today, it is a home to prison pipeline!

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