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#TFA25: Shutting Down the School-to-Prison Pipeline
Moderator and former Newark schools Superintendent, Cami Anderson, opened the Shutting Down the School-to-Prison Pipeline panel at the 25th Anniversary Summit talking about her brother Philip.
Born addicted to heroin, Philip would stumble through both the foster and school system before landing in prison. Later, when asked by a judge during an unrelated jury selection if she believed her brother had been treated fairly, Anderson struggled with the answer. Yes, Philip didn’t make great choices. But, he was a black man incarcerated by a system known for its racial and class disparities.
Anderson’s story touched on what would be an important through line for the panel—the school-to-prison pipeline is a problem that’s broader and more personal to us than we thought.
Speakers at the panel ranged from well-known policy leader and cultural and race issues journalist Michele Norris to Acting Secretary of Education John King, Jr.
At the session, a packed audience of education advocates were urged to be honest with themselves about times they’ve supported the biased-based discipline policies that often blur the lines between what is criminal behavior and everyday school discipline.
When Chief of Schools at Madison Public school district, Nancy Hanks, ran into a student she had expelled in Southside Chicago, it forced her to reassess her commitment to education. “At the time, I couldn't separate the child from the act,” an emotional Hanks said. “I couldn’t find that ‘just mercy.’”
Beyond those within the movement taking ownership, there’s also the need to view school-to-prison pipeline problem as part of a bigger racial and socio-economic issue that requires “robust wraparound services,” in and outside classroom.