“In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunities of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right that must be made available on equal terms.”
– Chief Justice Earl Warren, Brown v. Board of Education (1954)
The Black Child Agenda is committed to challenging the “school-to-prison pipeline,” a disturbing national trend wherein children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Many of these children have Special Educational Needs (SEN), and would benefit from additional educational and counseling services. Instead, they are isolated, punished, and pushed out.
“Zero-tolerance” policies criminalise minor infractions of school rules, while community officers and social workers in schools lead to students being criminalised for behavior that should be handled inside the school. Black students particularly boy’s are especially vulnerable to push-out trends and the discriminatory application of discipline.
The term “school to prison pipeline, was first used in the USA, however it is becoming increasingly used and recgonised in the UK. Many parents and carers are all to aware of what can only be described, as the systematic way in which children are being “pushed” out of the education system. When speaking with these children and young people they often say, that they are made to feel less than their peers, they feel picked on and that they are treated differently then other students. There have even been reports on direct & verbal racial abuse, met out by teachers towards black children. Now as a parent or carer where do you go for advice? who do you speak to about your concerns?.
It has been well documented that Black children do far better academically in school when they are between the ages of five to eleven years however there are increasing reports of children as young a six years of age being excluded many times illegally, from school.
Who’s in the Pipeline?
Students from two groups—racial minorities and children with SEN—are disproportionately represented in the school-to-prison pipeline. Black students, for instance, are 5.7 times more likely than their white counterparts to be excluded for a fixed term or permanently excluded. Black children constitute 12 percent of students, but they account for 46 percent of those excluded more than once.
For students with disabilities, the numbers are equally troubling. One report found that while 8.6 percent of public school children have been identified as having disabilities that affect their ability to learn, these students make up 32 percent of youth in juvenile detention centers.
The racial disparities are even starker for students with SEN. About 1 in 4 black children with SEN were excluded at least once, compared to 1 in 11 white students, according to the 2014/15 Government exclusions statistics.
There have been many mainstream newspaper reports about the difference in treatment of black students. The study found that Black students were disproportionately punished compared with otherwise similar white and Asian students. Children with emotional disabilities were disproportionately excluded for a fixed period or permanently expelled and at times forced to attend Pupil Referral Units.
Parents are increasingly concerned at the disproportinate rate in which black children are forced out of school at critical times in their academic lives. It has also been well documented that teachers have admitted to “marking down the work of black students”, there is an expectation of little to low expectations of black students, so students tend to feel isolated and ignored in class. When a child reacts to what they often see as being ignored or treated differently they are severely reprimanded. A Black Child is 168x’s more likely to be permanently excluded from school and end up in a Pupil Referral Unit commonly known as the PRU.
PRU’s are commonly known as the “Sin Bin” they are often filled with drugs, violence and little to no expectation for Black students, children from the PRU often come into contact with police before the age of 16 and can also get caught up in turf wars with children from other areas. The low success rate of Children going to PRU’s and going on to College or university, this has nothing to do with the child’s ability or capabilities, but more to do with the structure and environment which they are placed in. The PRU is often seen at the gateway to the prison system.
Are we then to deduce that children of African decent are more badly behaved than all other races of children? The Black Child Agenda tackles the issues faced by parents when dealing with the schools and local authorities. Offering legal advice, assistance on who to contact and empower parents to the next stage of their issue. Since the emergence of the Academy and Free Schools parents feel less empowered to raise issues, voice their concerns or challenge some of the decisions made by the schools. We will offer practical steps on ways to find a common ground and work with the schools to get the best results for all involved. We are also always on the look out for “Parent Advocates”, as much as we will escort parents to school appeals and hearings, we always need to empower local parents to support other parents when attending a school. These boys are usually the main target for permanent exclusion in schools, however it has been shown that children who attend African centered establishments such as tend to do better.