Tuesday, October 21, 2014

@phx - trust issues start early and pervade, corrode, and undermine the total school experience



thisamericanlife | Chana Joffe - A few weeks after JJ was first suspended, Tunette took him to a birthday party. And this is where, at this point, remember, I'm feeling really low on myself, I guess my parenting skills. And so I go to this birthday party. And it's for his friend, one of his little friends.
And all the parents are kind of talking, all the women parents. And we're talking about the preschool. And some of them are saying things that they like and don't like and all these different things. And then I said, well, JJ's been suspended. And they were like, suspended? And I'm like, yeah.
And they said, they suspend kids? They were shocked. And I said, absolutely. I said, he's been suspended, and I started telling them all the things that he had done.

And then one parent's like, I wonder why my kid hasn't been suspended. And I'm like, hm? What? So then she says, well, my son, he hit this kid on purpose, and they had to rush that kid to the hospital, and all I got was a phone call. And I was like, hm. And one after another, they kept telling me different stuff-- my kid did this, my kid did that, my kid bit somebody, my kid-- all these things.

And my kids, they're all the same age, all the same class. And only JJ had been sent home. So I was like, what is going on? That's when I thought to myself, something is not right.
Chana Joffe -The other parents were white at this birthday party?

Tunette Powell -The other parents were white. It was three other parents and myself. And they were white. And where we live, the majority of the kids are white.

And I'm not a person who does that, oh, everything's against black people, or I don't wake up and look for situations where there's discrimination or racism or any of that. So I wasn't-- oh, they're just doing this because my kids are black. I had no reason to believe that. After that birthday party, it forced me to consider it.
Chana Joffe - After the birthday party, Tunette's younger son, Joah, got suspended. Joah was three, though just barely three. He'd just had his birthday that week.

Tunette writes for a local Omaha parenting blog called Momaha. She wrote a post with the headline, "Is My Black Preschooler Just Another Statistic?"

I reached out to the preschool. And they did not want to comment or even allow me to talk to the director of the school. But Tunette's post got picked up by the Washington Post. And she started getting dozens of messages, especially from black parents, all over the country.
Tunette Powell In every part, every little sector, just saying that this has happened to me, and I thought I was by myself.
Chana Joffe -Tunette was very much not by herself. This is not a new conversation for lots of black and Latino parents noticing that their kids seem to be punished more harshly than white kids. That's not new.
What is new is that some academics and activists have been taking these stories and attaching them to a new, provocative term-- "the school-to-prison pipeline." The idea is that what's happening to Tunette's son is happening to lots of kids of color all over the country. And once those kids are old enough, the excessive punishment in school really messes them up and makes them much more likely to wind up in prison.