The “school to prison pipeline” symposium was held at the Wayne State Law School on March 25. The event focused on a process that is used by some public schools to expel minority students by reprimanding them harshly for minor offences.
Keynote speaker Damon T. Hewitt, who is a director at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, addressed the packed Spencer M. Partrich Auditorium about the racial inequities in both public and charter schools.
One problem Hewitt addresses is the referral systems that schools use to discipline students. How severe a punishment to hand down by school administration is subjective and is in “the eye of the beholder,” Hewitt said.
He said African Americans make up for 17 percent of the public school system and account for 34 percent of all suspensions. Most suspension referrals given to minority students are for minor offences. Offences such as being “disruptive, talking loudly, failing to make eye contact and improperly addressing teachers.”
Another issue that Hewitt addressed was the use of full-time police officers in schools. They bring arresting and frisking procedures used in the streets into the class room.
“When you put that mind set in an education system it can be devastating. It just doesn’t work it just doesn’t fit.” Hewitt says.