Blog: civil rights

What Campaign Zero’s Policy Recommendations Mean for Our Youth

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Last week, Campaign Zero—an initiative started by prominent members of the Black Lives Matter movement—released a set of policy solutions to curb police violence and discrimination in the wake of several high-profile police killings, including that of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., on August 9, 2014.

Here we review a few of Campaign Zero’s key recommendations that would have a notable impact on minors, which is our focus here at Reclaiming Futures.

Suspensions in Preschool? Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights Finds Racial Disparities

The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights recently released a study on school discipline that reported significant racial disparities in out-of-school suspensions starting as early as the preschool level.
This disparity brings about a myriad of concerns including an opportunity gap among students and the impact out-of-school suspension can have on the children’s future at such an early stage of life. Suspensions can lead to delays in academic advancement and increase the likelihood of students dropping out and entering the juvenile justice system.
While 94 percent of school districts do not use out-of-school suspension for preschoolers, there were concerning inequalities among those that did: African American children represent 18 percent of preschool enrollment but 42 percent of students suspended once, and 48 percent of the students suspended more than once.
Conversely, white students represented 43 percent of enrollment but only 26 percent of students suspended more than once.
Attorney General Eric Holder says on the issue, "Every data point represents a life impacted and a future potentially diverted or derailed. This Administration is moving aggressively to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline in order to ensure that all of our young people have equal educational opportunities."
President Obama has proposed a new initiative called Race to the Top-Equity and Opportunity (RTT-Opportunity) to address the inequalities among students. This initiative would create incentives for states and school districts to drive change in how they identify and close opportunity and achievement gaps.

Schools to prison pipeline: today’s civil rights issue

It was against the law during slave days, to teach a slave to read or write — denial of education goes way back. Also, during reconstruction, and later, there were efforts by white lawmakers to have more punitive and longer sentences for crimes they thought black people were more likely to commit. Today, we face a whole spectrum beginning with racial profiling and ending with the large number of black men who have been executed or who await execution on death row.
Then, when looking at issues of public education, I realized the school system here in Atlanta and indeed all over the country was re-segregating and the process was closely connected with the large number of young black men going into the prison system.
Several groups began working to stop this “school to prison” pipeline and we continue today as the problem worsens. One of the worst elements of this tragedy is the connection to money — of course — and the vast sums being spent on building prisons and keeping them filled.
Under President George W. Bush, private prisons started flourishing, often in poor rural areas where people welcomed them, hoping it would improve the local economy. The number of beds for prisoners in each institution and the prison population determine the income the state pays to these private corporations. One can see the analogy of a system where people are traded on Wall Street instead of a slave block in Charleston.
With more than 2 million people in prison, the United States has the world’s highest incarceration rate. If you add those on probation and parole, the figure is 6.5 million, or one in every 32 adults. The majority of U.S. inmates are black males, but prison populations increasingly include Latinos, other minorities, and the poor in general.
[read more after the jump]