Schools Look More Like Correctional Facilities Than Learning Institutions

I’ve noticed that the insides of the schools many of our kids attend look like the inside of  prisons. It was a startling observation. I was walking in the stairwell of a school recently and there was an uncanny resemblance to the prison where I visit my husband on a weekly basis. It was not the first time I felt that way. The first time I had to walk through a metal detector before I gained access to a classroom definitely didn’t feel very academic. It felt more like a trip to Riker’s Island, to be honest. I thought for sure that it was just me (I’m such a glass-half-full kind of a girl), but just to be sure, I googled “schools look like prison”and everything I read confirmed what I saw!


Schools resembling prisons are not some fluke architectural happenstance! It’s not an interior design snafu! It’s straight-up mental warfare!

This article from the Free Thought Project notes,

By the time the average young person in America finishes their public school education, nearly one out of every three of them will have been arrested.

More than 3 million students are suspended or expelled from schools every year, often for minor misbehavior, such as “disruptive behavior” or “insubordination.” Black students are three times more likely than white students to face suspension and expulsion.

For instance, a Virginia sixth grader, the son of two school teachers and a member of the school’s gifted program, was suspended for a year after school officials found a leaf (likely a maple leaf) in his backpack that they suspected was marijuana. Despite the fact that the leaf in question was not marijuana (a fact that officials knew almost immediately), the 11-year-old was still kicked out of school, charged with marijuana possession in juvenile court, enrolled in an alternative school away from his friends, subjected to twice-daily searches for drugs, and forced to be evaluated for substance abuse problems.

This takes the school to prison pipeline to a whole new  level. There are students — namely Black and Brown students — who are psychologically being tracked for prison. They are being trained to believe that their presence and energy are a bother worthy of disciplinary action. They are being desensitized to searches of their person and their property. They are being sent a very strong and dangerous message that they are best suited for a prison cell — not a college classroom! Not an executive board room! A prison cell! They attend schools that are caged in and surrounded by bars! When did this become okay? How do we change this?

For those of you who think that I’m over-reacting, think again. School culture  is predicated upon the school’s physical environment. I remember learning about how to create a classroom environment that solicits free thinking and comfort: thus the rugs and plants and bean bags that are always a part of my classroom’s aesthetic. These bars and chains and drab-colored pain that pervade the hallways of schools across America definitely play a role in our students’ poor academic performance. The school environment is depressing! The sad part is that this is being done on purpose. That’s the part that has me up in arms. That’s the part that should have you disgusted, too. If it doesn’t, shame on you. Shame on America, yet again.

What do you think?

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