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In a Sanctuary City Like NYC, Are Our Most Vulnerable Students Safe from Harm?

We haven’t heard much about the undocumented children being detained in U.S. concentration camps on the news any more, but I haven’t forgotten about them. I hope you haven’t either. We cannot afford to forget about or neglect our children — all children. All of them have value. All of them have futures. All of them have the right to grow and flourish and be be nurtured and educated towards achieving those future attainments. But that’s not happening.

Instead, children who are suppose to be in school are being housed in cages like animals, sleeping on cold concrete floors, literally dying from thirst because they are denied water. Did you catch that? Children on US soil are dying of thirst while able-bodied adults stand by and refuse to give them what they need! We already have an horrific past, America, and our future is looking even bleaker.

The New York Times informs us that “Most of the children crossed the border alone, without their parents. Many are teenagers from Central America, and they are housed in a system of more than 100 shelters across the United States, with the highest concentration near the southwest border.”

We can be sure that close to the top if not at the top of this list for these children is seeking a better education. Education is, in many ways, the foundation upon which the elusive “American Dream” is predicated.

Given this knowledge coupled with a burden on my heart for children enduring this plight, I was pleasantly surprised to read the cover article of the most recent issue of NEA Today highlighting the efforts of teachers in schools in states that border Mexico,particularly New Mexico, who are, as one educator puts it, “here to educate everybody at my door.”

According to the cover article Passport to Education, “The bottom line is this: They are our future. We are their stepping stone. In my opinion, what we are doing here, giving them a good education, is an investment in our country.”

This NEA Today article got me to thinking, does NY “educate everyone at the door”? Are their ways in which our current school system — not literally but metaphorically —  neglect and starve our schoolchildren? In a sanctuary city like New York are our most vulnerable students truly safe from harm? How can we effectively educate those students crossing borders in hopes of better educational opportunities and better lives when we are not effectively doing that for those students who are already here?

The bottom line is this: They are our future. We are their stepping stone. In my opinion, what we are doing here, giving them a good education, is an investment in our country.

This school system harms disenfranchised Black students. They are far too often perceived as dangerous threats unworthy of a quality, globally competent education by those who educate them. Their minds and their bodies are too heavily monitored in spaces where their more affluent White counterparts are allowed to be more free and more expressive. Black students  and their lived experiences are underrepresented in the various curriculum used in the school system.

This marginalization helps nurture a lack-mindset instead of the growth-mindset that is falsely promulgated. This marginalization also lends itself to the, among other damaging entities, the school-to-prison-to-deportation (catch that last part?) pipeline that solely affects Black and Brown students for what many would deem minor offenses.

Gone are the days when an infraction against the school rules leads to a painstaking trip to the principal’s office or that never-nice phone call home to a parent or guardian. They’ve been replaced with phone calls to school safety agents who are members of the NYPD and trips to either a suspension site or Rikers Island/some other local jail. According to data gathered by the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights in 2015-2016, Black students in New York City made up approximately 24.5 percent of the student population in our public schools, but accounted for 58 percent of school days missed due to a suspension.

In contrast, white students made up about 15 percent of the city’s student population, and accounted for less than 1 percent of school days missed due to a suspension city wide.

We haven’t heard much about the undocumented children being detained in U.S. concentration camps on the news any more, but I haven’t forgotten about them. We also haven’t heard about our documented students being detained in NYC suspension sites and jails on the news ever — but I haven’t forgotten about them.

Have you?

What do you think?

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