by Damekia Morgani
In New Orleans, the State has created a new kind of independent school system made up of public charter schools. Let me tell you what this charter school experiment means for poor African-American children in New Orleans: more of the same. Middle class & wealthy families have more choices of (publicly funded) schools with green grass, advanced classes, specialized training, and physical and mental health providers. Poor families who cannot meet or don?t know about the entrance requirements are relegated once again to the least resourced, least caring classrooms.
FFLIC?s New Orleans organizer Ashana Bigard remarks, ?what you see now is an extreme separation between the charter schools and how they treat kids and how the regular public schools are. For example, at Carver (a non-charter school), kids line up every day outside wearing orange uniforms that look exactly like prison outfits and file in through metal detectors, being patted down by one, sometimes two and three security guards at a time. But at Lusher (a publicly funded charter school), children never have to walk through metal detectors or worry about being harassed by security guards; instead, they start the day lounging on benches on beautifully manicured lawns, no doubt thinking about their school work or after school activities.?
FFLIC defines the school to prison pipeline as the systematic and institutional approach to depriving poor people of color (mostly African American in the South) a right to an equitable and quality education; the deliberate approach to using poor people of color to fill the Prison Industrial Complex; and the continued intentional efforts to make poor people of color feel inferior to what is deemed the superior race; and this is done by pushing kids out of school through unjust suspensions and expulsions, high-stakes testing, lack of educational resources on a consistent basis, denial of special education services, lowered expectations, zero-tolerance, and mentally preparing kids for prison by creating prison-like environments in the schools with the overuse of police and security guards policing students.
FFLIC New Orleans has been working to dismantle the school to prison pipeline and has had a good number of victories! Staff and leaders have advocated with more than 75 parents in the greater New Orleans area regarding school discipline issues, formed three community task forces [?] and trained over 300 individuals including school security guards, teachers, parents, and school administrators in New Orleans and across the country on the school-to-prison pipeline and how to dismantle it.
The fight for justice, equity, and quality remains. There is still so much to do! FFLIC believes that it?s critical that we being to reexamine how we value poor black children living in impoverished communities. We must go one step further and fight one day longer to ensure that our children live in a society where they feel safe, valued, and loved.
(Reprinted from FFLIC newsletter, ?Experimenting on our Children: How the School to Prison Pipeline Works in the ?New? New Orleans Education System?)