Accountability · achievement gap · Educational Equity · student voices

Educational Reparations: Black Children Deserve the Same Chance to Succeed as Their White Peers (Part #2)

Last month, I wrote about a few of my recommendations regarding educational reparations for Black Americans. The potential reparations commissions that could be created by H.R. 40 in Congress and Assembly Bill A2619A in the New York State Legislature, if passed, should make sure to keep in mind that reparations need to be comprehensive in scope. Educational institutions must implement reparations plans just like every other institution which has ever held back Black Americans.

Here are a few more recommendations in addition to my recommendations for affirmative action, community control of schools, and increased educational support for students.

  1. Expel the Police

Taking police officers out of schools should be an obvious step to further the safety of students. If a teacher needs police officers to handle children or their “disruptive behavior,” they should not be a teacher.

The only somewhat legitimate reason to have police officers in schools is to stop school shootings, but seeing as the Supreme Court has ruled that police officers have no obligation to protect people, and reality has shown that they have no intention to, continuing to hire police officers to wander the halls of schools and threaten violence against children is a slap in the face to all the children who they will hurt and who will have to watch the funding for their educations be wasted. Police are always looking for a fight; it’s their job.

  1. Let Children Out of Prison

Children don’t tend to get very good educations in prison. Imprisoning students, like suspending them, is an easy way to hold students back and hurt their education, and allow adults to forgo any responsibility for that child’s wellbeing or education. Police officers and schools regularly imprison children, which just makes it more likely that other people will imprison them again later in life.

All children imprisoned for nonviolent offences should be released and their records erased. 

  1. Keep Children Out of Prison

In April, we saw some more of the awful impact of Brett Kavanaugh when he broke the Supreme Court’s trend of increasing restrictions on punishment of minors by writing the majority decision for the conservative judges who voted to make it easier to sentence children to life without parole.

This is especially worrying, considering how easy it is to try minors as adults, which is a policy often used to target Black children.

Putting children in prison is a necessary precursor to keeping them there, so children should be given maximum possible leniency when accused of any crime, and all nonviolent offences should no longer warrant police involvement in children’s affairs. The more that police can be kept away from children, the better.

  1. Change Discipline Codes and Enforcement

Short of prison, there are other harmful punishments that are used against children which must be addressed. School discipline is administered in a notoriously racist way, and aside from creating repair by firing obviously racist administrators and teachers, policies themselves must be changed to mitigate the effects of racist people and institutions.

Schools must stop punishing children for drug-related offences; stop punishing children for absences or latenesses; and stop punishing children for all non-dangerous activities like using their phone or violating the dress code. Those are offences created specifically as excuses to get rid of children that teachers don’t want to handle. (And, in case you forgot, managing children is their job.)

People who claim that students need to be punished for latenesses or absences remind me of people who say we can’t have universal healthcare because then people would take worse care of their health, as if receiving healthcare is such a wonderful experience that people would deliberately sacrifice their health for it. Like being unhealthy, being chronically absent or late is something that is harmful in itself and thus doesn’t require extra incentives to prevent people from taking actions that create that condition.

The same goes for drug use. If a child is using drugs and you think that that is just some flaw in the child that needs to be forced out of them or punished, it is you who is the problem, not the child.

These are just a few of my recommendations. Of course, these ideas would mean different things in different schools and in different contexts and thus I cannot provide perfectly specific instructions on how to undo centuries of racism. Nevertheless, I believe that all educational institutions should actively implement policies of reparations and consider the suggestions presented here.

What do you think?

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