*Available Now* The Color of Education podcast – “Police in Public Schools: Chicago’s School-to-Prison Pipeline Exposed By Research Activist”

Urban Youth Justice presents: The Color of Education podcast episode – “Police in Public Schools: Chicago’s School-to-Prison Pipeline Exposed by Research Activist”


Listen to
internet radio with urbanyouthjustice on Blog Talk Radio

Join host Ernest Saadiq Morris of Urban Youth Justice in a conversation with activist and Depaul University sociologist Frank Edwards, co-author of the Policing Chicago Public Schools: A Gateway to the School-to-Prison Pipeline research report (co-written with Mariame Kaba of Project NIA).

They discuss how the constant police presence in Chicago schools criminalizes students of color by subjecting them to criminal justice penalties for common school-based infractions, resulting in higher rates of incarceration and unemployment.

They also discuss the need for more Research Activism nationwide as a tool to keep school and police policymakers accountable for their negative impacts upon youth of color and their communities; and reveal a blueprint of methods for activists to follow in their own communties.

Read Policing Chicago Public Schools: A Gateway to the School-to-Prison Pipeline report here:


UYJ HANDOUT – 3/10/12 Seattle Race and Social Justice Initiative Community Meeting at New Holly Center

Here is the text from a handout resource that Urban Youth Justice provided to interested community members at the Seattle Race and Social Justice Initiative Community Meeting on  Race and Education at the New Holly Center on March 12, 2012.

RACE AND EDUCATION IN SEATTLE (RSJI Community Meeting 3/10/12)

The Seattle Public School District has a majority of non-white students of color. (Seattle Public Schools Data Profile: District Summary REA/SISO – 2011)

Most Black/African-American, Latino/Hispanic, Native American and Pacific Islander Seattle Public School students are eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch. (Seattle Public Schools Data Profile: District Summary REA/SISO – 2011)

Native American (25.6%), Black (18.2%) and Latino (19.3%) students are overrepresented in K-12 special education. (Seattle Public Schools Data Profile: District Summary REA/SISO – 2011)

In the Seattle Public School District, Black students overall barely outperform Special Education students overall in Reading/Math test scores. (SPS District Scorecard 2010-2011)

The Seattle Schools Neighborhood Schools Model reinforces and institutionalizes privilege in public education.

The Seattle Public School District is FAILING its Students of Color.

RSJI EQUITY STRATEGY 1: Applying racial equity tools to our programs and projects. Through the Youth and Families Initiative (YFI), the City has realigned spending to meet families’ priorities, and has designed the new Families and Education Levy around YFI’s recommendations. The new Levy, which Seattle voters passed in November of 2011, targets schools with the greatest needs, often meaning significant populations of students of color, for programs aimed at closing the achievement gap.

Urban Youth Justice supports the stated equity goals of the 2011 Families and Education Levy. However, the stated goal of simply “closing the achievement gap” elevates the District’s misguided education reform by “value-added” data driven by test scores that is objectively proven an inadequate measure of learning. The goal of closing the educational opportunity gap is a more comprehensive and effective education goal to increase learning opportunities of students of color and, ultimately, their performance by closing actual learning gaps, not test scores.

Research shows that the educational opportunity gap starts with inequitable pre-K/early learning opportunities for youth of color and other disadvantaged youth. Although the Families and Education Levy plan does provide more funding to pre-K/early learning opportunities, the Levy still fails to sufficiently prioritize pre-K/early learning inequity to a level commensurate with its importance to the overall stated equity goals of the Levy.

We believe that this is due to the incorrect emphasis upon “closing the achievement gap” that shifts the focus solely to raising test scores as the ultimate goal, rather than closing the educational opportunity gap.

Early intervention strategies for students of color must primarily assist students in achieving early learning success, rather than District goals of early identification of special needs that pushes mores students of color out of general education classrooms.

Test score-based education analysis is an inadequate tool to measure and define racial justice in education because it does not identify institutional racial inequality and/or bias that permeates school district curriculum choices, student discipline policies, classroom management practices, and distribution of educational resources that are at the real root of unequal educational opportunity. Also, multiple national scandals have shown that overemphasis of measuring success by test score performance data as can motivate school officials to cheat and fix results due to the high-stakes pressure of test performance tied to funding, school closure, and job security.

Finally, the language of the Levy implementation plan suggests that educational equity for students of color is merely a “soft goal” not one that is strictly required or enforced, either in spending or oversight. The definition of a school’s need for Levy funding is too subjective. There is a danger that these funds will be rerouted based on race and income neutral factors (such as “enrollment pressures”) to benefit historically academically privileged groups. Continued oversight and accountability enforcement are not sufficiently guaranteed and must be monitored by community stakeholders truly committed to educational equality for students of color. Urban Youth Justice has every intention of monitoring the Levy funding for accountability to the stated equity goals.

RSJI EQUITY STRATEGY 2: Building racial equity into citywide policies and initiatives. School discipline policies such as out-of-school suspensions result in students’ missing classroom experiences for extended periods of time. This directly impacts their ability to progress and graduate on time. The Race and Social Justice Community Roundtable has named education as its lead issue and is working with the Seattle School District to revise its policies on school discipline rates.

Urban Youth Justice main priority is ending the racial disproportionality in school discipline that feeds the school-to-prison pipeline. However, the School-to-Prison Pipeline is rooted in more than just school discipline.

The increased disproportionate placement of students of color in special education instead of general education is an already existing problem. There is a real danger of increased special education placement of youth of color with special needs/disabilities outside of general education curriculum and classrooms as long as “value-added” data analysis based on test performance is not identified as a negative factor in the Seattle Schools’ failure to provide equal educational opportunity.

Furthermore, there is a lack of attention to the fact that students of color with special needs or labeled as special education students are also at increased risk of disproportionate suspensions and expulsions from school discipline. Increased scrutiny of student discipline when both race and disability intersect is crucial to decreasing racial disparities in school discipline. Urban Youth Justice is uniquely focused on this area of advocacy.

RSJI EQUITY STRATEGY 3: Partnering with community. The Race and Social Justice Community Roundtable is partnering with Washington Community Action Network and other Roundtable members to promote a statewide legislative agenda on racial equity in education, and to develop strategies to eliminate disproportionality in school discipline rates.

Urban Youth Justice supports promotion of positive statewide legislative policy. In its 2011-12 session, the Washington State Legislature has introduced a legislative agenda that is openly hostile to youth of color and other disadvantaged youth. The corporate supported education reformers have influenced budgetary cuts, charter bills, test-based teacher evaluation models and juvenile justice cuts that are openly hostile to most vulnerable students of color. Data driven measurements that overemphasize measuring teacher performance based on high stakes testing promotes the school pushout of students of color, especially those struggling academically or having difficulty due to special needs or disability. Urban Youth Justice also supports holding the Seattle School Board and City Council accountable for racial disparities in Seattle public education beyond their participation in the RSJI Roundtable.

Ernest Saadiq Morris is a youth rights advocate, civil rights and liberties lawyer, and founding director of the public education and advocacy initiative, Urban Youth Justice. He has been defeating the school-to-prison pipeline since 2004, including coordinating the largest successful mass student defense to-date (Round Rock, Texas 2006-2007).

Urban Youth Justice Presents: The Color of Education-Chicago’s “Arresting Justice” for Black & Latino Youth w/ Mariame Kaba of Project NIA– NEW PODCAST Available for Download/Streaming

Urban Youth Justice presents: The Color of Education – Chicago’s “Arresting Justice” for Black & Latino Youth w/ Mariame Kaba of Project NIA.

Join Ernest Saadiq Morris of Urban Youth Justice and Mariame Kaba of Project NIA as they examine the high arrest rates of Chicago’s Black & Latino youth and its harmful effect on their communities.

They also discuss community solutions to reduce the role of disproportionate minority youth contacts with police and the school-to-prison pipeline as the New Jim Crow gateway to mass incarceration.


Listen to
internet radio with urbanyouthjustice on Blog Talk Radio


Go to the show page for this episode of The Color of Education

School Bully: Zero Tolerance Discipline Teaches Youth Intolerance

Published on Dignity In Schools (http://www.dignityinschools.org)
by Ernest Saadiq Morris

Bullying is a long ignored and persistent problem in American schools. Bullying can have devastating consequences no matter the victim’s sexual orientation, race, ethnicity or gender, however, it took a recent pandemic of tragic suicides by gay teen bullying victims to finally bring sufficient media attention and public pressure on education officials to dismantle the culture of bullying in schools. As education officials scrambled to respond to the outcry for stronger anti-bullying laws and school policies, the Obama administration recently issued a “Dear Colleague” letter of guidance clarifying how school officials are responsible for countering instances of bullying within their schools.

But the institutional responsibility to prevent bullying is not a breakthrough concept; rather school officials have just been delinquent in their duties and responsibilities. School officials often fail to competently address bullying and allow it to escalate by ignoring the warning signs within the school community. Too often, lackluster and negligent institutional oversight has left school bullies and their victims on their own to either “work it out” or in the continuum of worst case scenarios, “deal with it” through avoidance, submission or retaliatory violence. The public demand for accountability is understandable but calling for a one-size-fits-all zero tolerance punishment that never addresses the underlying issues within the school community is misguided and easily exploited by education officials to justify the zero tolerance school discipline that already exists nationwide, rather than adopting specific anti-bullying methods.

Zero tolerance discipline policies were the status quo in U.S. public schools long before the recent wave of teen suicides. Zero tolerance policies were initially justified as a necessary post-Columbine law enforcement approach to school public safety, but were soon expanded into general enforcement of student behavior compliance. However, these policies are not effective in preventing bullying, because their purpose is not to prevent youth misbehavior by creating a safe school environment but rather to punish youth after a violation has already been committed. Zero tolerance does not employ tangible anti-bullying methodology, rather it only addresses bullying after the fact by the institutionalized practice of forced compliance through fear and retaliation, i.e., bullying. By acting as zero tolerance bullies, school officials contribute to bullying culture by teaching students that there is no compassion or second chances for those judged outside the norm. This teaches youth intolerance of all nonconformity, whether it is based on behavior, culture or group identity.

Furthermore, bullying is often more complicated than the public is led to believe by simplified media coverage. The public perception of bullying is warped and dominated by a few well-publicized tragic events that support the idea that it is simply the strong picking on the weak and vulnerable, this could not be further from the truth. Bullying is often a symptom of multi-layered divisions within a school community between its proverbial haves and have-nots. Many urban schools face internal tension and conflict between individuals and groups based on the economic pressures and competition for lack of resources within their school or surrounding neighborhoods. Likewise, the expansion of zero tolerance discipline created a far bigger crisis than had previously existed from occasional school violence. As evidenced by the recent Southern Poverty Law Center report, Suspended Education, the stigmatizing and pushing out of record numbers of youth –particularly, youth of color– through zero tolerance suspensions and expulsions overwhelmingly based on infractions wholly unrelated to horrific bullying incidents or the general safety of the school community (i.e., tardiness, minor classroom misbehavior and dress code rules) is indeed an epidemic in our nation’s schools. This widespread disenfranchisement of the right to equal educational opportunity of youth of color is undoubtedly a factor in many urban schools contributing to the festering intolerant environment that is a precursor to a bullying environment.

A shift to restorative justice can transform the negative culture of zero tolerance discipline from one of intolerance and forced compliance by fear to a responsible education goal of productive behavior within a tolerant community. Restorative justice seeks to actually resolve conflict by teaching youth that they are responsible for making the victim whole. By teaching skills to resolve conflict, restorative justice can transform the negative dynamic between individuals and with time the community to which they belong, as more U.S. school districts are discovering. Public education can fulfill its traditional social mission of producing responsible community members by teaching responsibility and accountability for personal behavior and allowing for learned positive behavior within the school community, instead of forced behavior compliance from fear of negative consequences only.

Zero tolerance discipline does not fundamentally change behavior and it does not transform negative school culture to positive. A school community rightfully concerned about bullying cannot settle for the zero tolerance status quo, offered as mere window dressing, that requires no effort from school officials already delinquent in their institutional anti-bullying responsibility. Education officials should not be allowed to use recent bullying tragedies as a shield to continue their own zero tolerance bullying in the name of a corporate-industrial education model that separates the weakest youth from the herd, stigmatizes them, and casts them aside. It is time for a cultural shift in our schools to an environment of tolerance and accountability for youth and educators alike. We must use this ideal window of opportunity to urge school districts to transform the negative zero (in)tolerance culture permeating our schools with restorative justice principles to foster a new culture of tolerance and community-building –with educational and cultural equality for all.

* Ernest Saadiq Morris is a youth rights advocate, civil rights & liberties lawyer, and founding director of the public education and advocacy initiative, Urban Youth Justice. You can follow Urban Youth Justice daily on Facebook and Twitter.