Friday, June 10, 2011

Jackson, MS Alternative School Feeding the School to Prison Pipeline

Schools are supposed to be about educating kids, right? They are supposed to be safe places for students to learn and grow. It is bad enough when students have to fear going to school because other students have disciplinary issues that the administration is incompetent to address, but now, schools are moving towards policies similar to prisons.
Yesterday, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal class action lawsuit against Jackson Public School District in Mississippi for allowing an alternative school to shackle and handcuff students for hours on end as punishment for the most minor infractions, like speaking too loudly or not wearing a belt.  
 At Capital City Alternative School, administration would actually shackle students to railings and poles, then walk away and leave them tied up and unsupervised like dogs. One student, shackled to a railing for the entire school day for not wearing a belt, had no choice but to eat his lunch handcuffed. Other examples of the school’s bondage punishment policy include a 15-year-old girl handcuffed to a railing for hours after greeting a friend too loudly in the hallway and a student who was shackled up for not wearing the right colored shoes.
 The SPLC filed the lawsuit after the school district refused to respond to a letter asking that the school’s strict punishment policy be stopped.  SOURCE
OK, now discipline is one things, but handcuffing kids for hours at a time for the most minor infractions? That is criminal, in my opinion.

Of course, if you go to the website of Capital City Alternative School, they pose a really pretty picture of their institution. One of their stated goals is to " create a climate where students feel safe in the educational environment" I do not know about anyone else, but frankly, I would feel far from "safe" if I knew that I could be shackled for hours as a form of "discipline".

The ACLU alleges that this extremely punitive environment is designed purposely to push the most challenging students out of the school. Now, if these children are already in an alternative school, they obviously do not have any options to complete their education elsewhere. So, what choice are they left with??

An alternative school should be designed with the end goal of teaching children the skills they need to adapt to the regular school environment AND to every day life. This school seems to be teaching children how to be prisoners. And, since the school wants to push out the children who have the most challenges to face, they are feeding the school to prison pipeline.

Is this effective education? If the administrators of Capital City Alternative School are not up to the task of educating the most challenging pupils, then they need to just get out of the game, and leave room for new people who actually give a damn what happens to the kids!


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