If completing this project has taught me one thing, it is that the grassroots activists who have made resisting the school-to-prison their mission are organized, passionate, informed and committed. Consider a statement on website of the Black Organizing Project, for example:
“The Black Organizing Project launched the Bettering Our School System campaign in October 2011, in response to the murder of 20-year old Raheim Brown by Oakland School Police Sgt. Barhin Bhatt.
“Raheim’s mother came to BOP looking for support from the community when the school district turned their backs. Our members wanted justice for Raheim, but thought it was critical to look at the broader issue of police violence toward youth in order to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again.”
(The Black Organizing Project. (2014). “Bettering Our School System – BOSS.” Retrieved from http://blackorganizingproject.org/our-work.)
This narrative shows that the community the Black Organizing Project represents in Oakland, Calif., took action in direct response to violence and oppression from the police, and did so through the vehicle of a grassroots organization when traditional means–the school district–were ineffective. Furthermore, the paragraphs quoted above also demonstrate that the individuals involved in reacting against an incident of school-related police brutality see their struggle as part of a wide social and political problem; and by publicizing their efforts online, they have already moved to draw more like-minded people into their movement.
But, of course, I’ve learned more than one lesson from this project.
By finding and reading practioner-oriented and peer-reviewed articles for this project, I also learned about the extent and depth of research on school discipline and the school-to-prison pipeline. This body of work is important for several reasons. First, it unequivocally proves that the school-to-prison pipeline is real and is driven by governmental policies and economic inequality. This fact matters because it shows that people who deny the existence of the pipeline, or claim that imprisonment is essentially the students’ fault, do so out of bias, political reasons, or, sometimes, a simple lack of awareness. Second, scholarship on this topic is important because it evaluates and disseminates theories on how the school-to-prison pipeline can be ameliorated. For example, Wilson’s practitioner-oriented piece discusses more positive approaches teachers can use, while Gonsoulin et al.’s peer-reviewed articles analyzes ways that teachers can be taught these approaches. Third, these articles can bring new ideas to the conversation surrounding the issue; take Snapp et al.’s piece on the role of sexuality in school discipline and the school-to-prison pipeline as an example.
Through this project, I also learned about the capacity of social media as a means for spreading information regarding injustice and grassroots organizing.@, for example, tweets on a variety of topics around social justice, the criminal justice system and racism. It recently tweeted include a link to this article that includes, along with some insightful analysis, offered these two shocking facts: “America incarcerates a greater percentage of Black people than were jailed in Apartheid South Africa. There are more Black people in America’s prisons than were enslaved in 1850” (Muhammad, David. “Black Lives Matter – It’s More than Police Killings.” (12/15/2014). New American Media. Retrieved from http://newamericamedia.org/2014/12/black-lives-matter—its-more-than-police-killings.php.).
In another tweet, @AntiRecidivism included a link to this surprising video, which I found interesting because of the collaboration between inmates and officers it shows, the tone the officer takes, and the video’s overall resistance to the narrative that imprisoned individuals cannot be good parents :
(“The importance of fathers: Correctional Officer Calvin Williams at TEDxIronwoodStatePrison.” (6/2/2014). TEDx Talks. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eu22Wgu98VE.)
I wouldn’t have come across that essay or that video without social media. Furthermore, knowing that someone–or some group of people–is busying finding material having to do with incarceration that resists dominant narratives and publicizing it has restored a portion of my faith in humanity.
I started using Twitter for this class, but I didn’t started exploring all of what Twitter has to offer in terms of social justice until I began do research for this site.
Additionally, while working on this project, I’ve learned how to use WordPress and gained the confidence to use it effectively. It’s a strange thing about my generation that we use the Internet extensively and have done so since we were kids, but we rarely make sites. Rather, we upload content to Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, etc., and rely on preexisting structure to display what matters to us. Though using WordPress does not offer the freedom that coding a site from scratch would, it still offers a far greater range of creative expression than, say, making a Facebook page about the school-to-prison pipeline would. Furthermore, since I made this site for an education class and not a computer science one, it makes sense that the project’s emphasis was on content and not form; still, I’m glad I got the chance to become a little more tech-savvy.
Thus, I’d say I learned a lot from this project: about grassroots organizing primarily, but also about contemporary scholarship on education, the power of social media and the way WordPress works.
I’d like to leave you with this video, since it shows the absurdity and the cruelty of the school-to-prison pipeline:
(Advprojectdc. “Taking Back Our Schools: Organizing to Stop the School-to-Prison Pipeline.” (7/23/2013). The Advancement Project. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3jTlVUkEJ8.)
I hope that you’ve found this site informative and thought-provoking on topics surrounding school discipline and the school-to-prison pipeline in the United States today.