On my About Me page my readers can glean from my brief bio of my life and how I transitioned from a mid-level executive position to an overworked-underpaid educator. However, today I am writing as I am undergoing a critical examination of emotions and marked ambivalence commonly referred to as being conflicted. I created my Blog to address suspensions, expulsions, and the zero tolerance policy, which created feeder schools for the school to prison pipeline. However, I recently became a victim of the children I vehemently advocate for and had to decide whether to file charges against a child or two children who are barely teenagers. Therefore, I pondered if my reaction to the incident contributes to the STPP. When, then, is it appropriate to determine when a child should be suspended or expelled from school? Or worse have criminal charges filed against them.
An act of violence was committed; a criminal verbal threat directly intended for me. A violation of my being and images had the threat been carried out are difficult to dismiss. How can children get in my head like this? My very core shaken and my feelings are raw and visceral. I am the educator, the adult, the Mental Health First-Aider, however the behaviors and actions of a very small number of students have me questioning whether every can child be saved, moreover, saved from what? What happened in their lives that they could so easily violate an adult, their educator and not once but twice within an hour’s time?
I can only question the home environment, the community, the parents, and all the pain and suffering and dysfunction they must have endured and not recognize generational poverty and/or dysfunction as more than a way of life. Is it enough to blame societal norms and systemic racism to shift the agency from the children and back to the system that has created generational poverty? Where and when did our communities in general lose the WILL to ‘get out of the hood’, as systematic public housing and poor communities have held people back. Generational poverty and living in impoverished communities rarely contributes to the well-being of children. In poor communities, children are less likely to be read to. They are generally unprepared to attend kindergarten or first grade with the basic psycho-socio skills and school readiness skills. Conventional wisdom has taught me that generational poverty and dysfunction are not easy to overcome. A person must unlearn all the negative and harmful experiences so that they may relearn that life can be different. I know teens who, though they were removed from their lives of poverty and placed in safe-structured homes, left as soon as they aged out of the system. It was too unfamiliar, too different, too much – they did not have the WILL to or skills to adapt to a safer less volatile lifestyle. Alternatively, the conservative right might argue too much is given to too many without accountability. Is this a realistic view or just politics playing to a base? The safety nets to assist families in-need still exist and the data indicates the need for them:
- People are unemployed for as many reasons as there are unemployed people
- People are underemployed
- Forty-eight point five percent (48.5%) of children in the greatest nation in the world live at the poverty level
- Another 2.5 million children (or 1 in 30) are homeless in the U.S.
What is so great about a country when almost half of the children live at or below the poverty level? Furthermore, according to the State of Working America data, in 2011 African Americans had the highest poverty rate of 27.4%, and that the number of African Americans who earned poverty wages ($11.06 or less per hour) was 28%.
I am providing data on poverty, homelessness, public housing, etc., yet, I was still a victim – an Educator second-guessing where might I be more effective? Is this Blog effective? Does it matter? Who are my readers and how does this interpret for them? Who really cares about those “people” that we have marginalized. However, I am a victim who realizes that a crime was committed and that there are consequences. I never wanted to be that educator who had to struggle with the decision to file charges or the educator who could make that decision with ease. It was a demanding incident and the decision I needed to make was not easy. I do not have an answer to the question I find myself asking; Am I wrong for filing charges even though I was a victim, a crime was committed and that there are consequences? What constitutes filing charges when I know the federal zero tolerance policy was initiated to get guns and drugs out of schools? That was over twenty years ago, and the student population in impoverished schools has changed; any educator will acknowledge many students resist authority, are defiant, fearless, and hopeless. However, I also know that not enough is available to provide children in need psychological and therapeutic modalities. What assistance are school districts providing for educators who are assaulted, aside from arresting and expelling children? Simply removing a student does not diminish the trauma experienced by many. This hopelessness is, in my opinion, what contributes to violent-aggressive behaviors in students and educators.
I only know that something is inherently wrong when I find myself questioning my passion about Education Access Denied Zero Tolerance: School to Prison Pipeline because today I am now not just an educator, I am a wife, a mother, a sister, a being, and a victim! The real question is can I go back into the classroom? Where am I best able to help those who cannot or do not know how to help themselves? When will the United States start caring about children, poverty, and educators?
TL;DR – A situation at school made me question my position as an educator and made me question what is being done to protect educators in addition to students.