In her one-woman show Notes from the Field, Anna Deavere Smith exposes the consequences of America’s abandonment of our most vulnerable and troubled children. She reveals that what is now known as the “school-to-prison pipeline” is, in fact, the sum of our failures to meet the needs of our children — in particular, children of color.
I found it brutally ironic that this show premiered on HBO just as the nation turned its attention to Parkland, Fla., where a 19-year-old living with mental illness went to his former high school and shot and killed 17 students and educators. More ironic still was that in response, the President of the United States called for teachers to be armed with high-powered weapons and floated to offer them “a little bit of a bonus” if they were willing to take up arms in the classroom. This would help schools become a “hardened target,” he said, using language peddled by the National Rifle Association.
What should have been dismissed within hours as madcap rambling by our president has instead become the subject of serious policy discussions. Within days, Donald Trump’s words began to shape public policy in Florida and in Washington. Perhaps it is the logical next step in our cruel abandonment of our children to the criminal justice system that we would contemplate meting out in the schoolhouse the ultimate punishment — death — at the hands of teachers. But it is also madness.
And make no mistake: Although the perpetrators of mass school shootings have been almost exclusively white, there’s little doubt that arming teachers will lead disproportionately to the killing — by teachers — of children of color.
Read the full op-ed here.