We Have to Stop Locking Up Our Kids

Hallway, Red and Black Ink, LLC.

During his time as Secretary of Education Arne Duncan gave a speech in which he described a surprising revelation he had.  Prior to becoming the Secretary of Education, Duncan was the CEO of Chicago Public Schools.  While there he sent out an inquiry to assess when children, who were in Chicago’s public schools, were being arrested because he knew too many were being sent to jail.  He figured that if they could determine the times of most of these arrests, they could implement some intervention that might cause these incidences to decrease.

What he found, as a result of his inquiry, was that most of the arrests were occurring during the “school day, in school buildings, for nonviolent misdemeanors.”

This isn’t just true for Chicago, but data nationally say the same thing.

CRDC 2013 - 2014, Red and Black Ink, LLC

The Office for Civil Rights, under the Department of Education, conducted a survey of almost every public school and school district in America, as a part of its ongoing data collection efforts.  The report, which was released in 2016, is entitled, the 2013 - 2014 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC).  

It collected data from:

  • 16,758 school districts (which is 99.2% of ALL school districts)
  • 95,505 schools (which represents 99.5% of ALL public schools)
  • Encompassing over 50 million students (50,035,744).

It found that in high schools with over 75% Black and Latino student populations:

  • 51% have Sworn Law Enforcement Officers;
  • 33% offer calculus and
  • 48% offer physics.

Even when it comes to preschool the differences are clear.

The report found that, “Black children represent 19% of preschool enrollment, but 47% of preschool children receiving one or more out-of-school suspensions, while white children represent 41% of preschool enrollment and only 28% of those children who receive one or more out-of-school suspensions.”

It’s not just boys…

“Black girls represent 20% of female preschool enrollment, but 54% of female preschool children receiving one or more out-of-school suspensions.”

That means that more than half of all the preschool girls who got suspended, in the country, were Black.

When we hear about children, or young people, suffering from the opioid epidemic, I have heard words like, “We can't arrest our way out of this epidemic.”, “compassion,” “prevention,” “We need to find medical and social ways of getting out of this epidemic,” etc. 

I simply don’t hear those same words when it comes to Black children who make mistakes in their lives or, increasingly, while they are in school.

My son had an experience while in high school where a white student came to class, he wasn’t talking directly to my son, but he was talking to someone near him.  He said he had been stopped by a police officer over the weekend because he and his friends were smoking marijuana.  He said the officer did not arrest them, even seemed to somewhat joke with them a little bit, and simply took him back home to his parents with a warning.

He was in school now bragging and laughing because he brought marijuana with him to school.

I thought, “Wow.  How many Black children have that experience where they are caught by a police officer, with an illegal substance on them, and are simply brought back home to their parents?”

"Nationwide, 2.8 million K-12 students received one-or-more out of school suspensions:

  • These include approximately 1.1 million black students; 610,000 Latino students; 700,000 students served by IDEA; and 210,000 English learners."

Too many times we think about “throwing away the key” and not giving proper support to our children.

According to the CRDC:

  • Black students are 1.9 times as likely to be expelled from school without educational services as white students.
  • Black boys represent 8% of all students, but 19% of students expelled without educational services.

"Black students are more likely to be disciplined through law enforcement: Black students are 2.2 times as likely to receive a referral to law enforcement or be subject to a school-related arrest as white students."

Going back to former U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan’s remarks, he said of his findings:  

“Those calls to the police, to put kids in jail?

We were making them.

We were responsible.

We had met the enemy, and it was us.”


Copyright, Red and Black Ink, LLC, 2017.


Duncan, Arne “Investing in Teachers Instead of Prisons."  Ed.gov. Press Office.  SEPTEMBER 30, 2015.  Press Office press@ed.gov

"Persistent Disparities Found Through Comprehensive Civil Rights Survey Underscore Need for Continued Focus on Equity, King Says."  U.S. Department of Education.  Press release, June 7, 2016.  http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/persistent-disparities-found-through-comprehensive-civil-rights-survey-underscore-need-continued-focus-equity-king-says

U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights.  2013 - 2014 Civil Rights Data Collection:  A First Look. http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/2013-14-first-look.pdf 

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