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Jed
Oppenheim
Why We Advocate Against the School-to-Prison-Pipeline

Why We Advocate Against the School-to-Prison-Pipeline

By Courtney Bowie, Racial Justice Program & Jed Oppenheim, Southern Poverty Law Center at 12:14pm
EB’s story, common in many ways and tragic in most, demonstrates why we — as advocates against harsh school discipline policies — fight against harsh school discipline policies that funnel children from school to jail. When EB was in the 4th grade, in Jackson, Miss., he was in the talented and gifted program. Around that time, a caring teacher noticed that he was being physically abused and reported it to the county. After this report, EB’s immediate family was broken up, he was separated from siblings, and he went to live with relatives. In a state that has few mental health resources and a foster care system in disarray, EB got little guidance, counseling or comfort. Rather, he returned to school and began to act out. As a result and without regard to his life circumstances, he was placed in Jackson’s alternative school programs where he moved through a revolving door of youth jails, mental health institutions, and alternative schools. Along the way, his fate was sealed. From 2005-2009, EB did not step foot inside a regular education classroom. Advocates fought for EB to return to regular school and the school board permitted EB to return to his regular high school for the 2009-2010 school year. After he was accused of breaking in to a middle school, we, as his advocates, defended EB and asked the Jackson Public School District not to expel him. Expulsion is generally not a solution to any child’s problem. If expelled, EB would have just had more time on the street, when what he wanted was an education. More importantly, we asked the school district to look at what they had done with and for EB in the five years prior to the expulsion. While our fight was worthwhile, it came too late.
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