Feeding The School-To-Prison Pipeline
Before I start to disclose the contents of the topic of this letter, I want to state that everything in this letter is a FACT! Not some hypothetical situation. Not some situation that happened somewhere else in America (although it could have). But this is a true story that happened in the not-so-distant past right here in Louisville, KY. While all of these facts can be proven (the very definition of a fact) as they are documented in various emailed documents to the district (making them subject to open records) and I have seen them with my own eyes, the name of the minor will be protected, as will the adult names and locations. Furthermore, so that we are clear on the facts, I will provide other evidence such as photographs and policies from inside and outside of the district to substantiate the facts in this case.
A fifth grade Black male student brought a disposable razor to school. The disposable razor was not out and the only reason anyone knew he had brought it to school was because he needed to get a pencil or piece of paper out of his locker. His Black teacher at the time (who had been a social worker for over 19 years before coming to work in education) went to his locker with him. While searching through his backpack, the disposable razor fell out. She examined the disposable razor and gave it back to him. Immediately, she thought (because she herself is a Black mother) if the white assistant principal found out this the student had brought this disposable razor to school, then she would probably “blow it out of proportion.” In other words, she knew that a Black male student bringing a disposable razor to school could be detrimental to him. So, the Black teacher asked the student why he brought the disposable razor to school. According to the teacher, the student stated that he had spent the weekend at another location (this was on a Monday) and he was going back home after school. The Black teacher took the disposable razor away from the student and informed the school’s Black mental health practitioner, who immediately started yelling, “We need to tell [white assistant principal name].” The Black teacher realized that the Black mental health practitioner was not going to be of any assistance at this point, so she contacted the school’s Black counselor.
The Black counselor brought the student into her office and asked him about the disposable razor. He stated that he had forgotten it was in there and that he had “spent the night somewhere else over the weekend.” The Black counselor remembered that the student had participated in a school mentoring program when he was in the fourth grade.
In this school program, several male students had been provided a disposable razor, a balloon, and shaving cream (see example above). The facilitator taught them how to “shave” using the balloons. So, the student had already been introduced to a disposable razor while at a school program, and they had been taught directly or indirectly that disposable razors are not dangerous as they practiced with balloons. To be certain, the Black school counselor asked the student if he had been in the program. He stated that he had participated in the program. Also, there was a school newsletter with a picture of the students that had participated and that student was in the picture. While the student was in her office, the Black counselor contacted his mother. His mother stated that she did not know he had brought the disposable razor to school and that it was hers. The counselor explained to the mother that the disposable razor would be placed back into his backpack for him to return to her and that he should not bring a disposable razor to school anymore. The counselor walked the student to his locker and had him place the disposable razor back into his backpack. Then, the counselor walked him to class and told the teacher every step that the counselor had completed with the student. The counselor went back to her office and sent out an email to the Black principal, the school psychologist and multiple teachers detailing everything that was going on with the student.
After witnessing the Black counselor walking with the student to his locker and to his class, the Black mental health practitioner went back to the classroom. She spoke loudly to the teacher in front of the class, “She gave him the razor back. I’m going to get it out of his locker.” Apparently, she went to his locker and took the disposable razor out. Then, she gave it to the principal or assistant principal.
Months went by, the Black counselor was looking in the district’s digital database of student records under the Black student’s (topic of this letter) name and noticed something that caught her attention. Apparently, around the time of this incident, the school’s Black principal waited 10 days after the incident and made an update to the database “charging” the student with bringing a weapon to school. The Black counselor had to contact the mother concerning another issue, and asked her if she knew the disposable razor was in her son’s permanent school record as a “weapon”. The mother stated that she did not know and had not talked to anyone concerning this incident from the school except the Black counselor on the day that it happened. Therefore, this Black mother has been denied her right to be notified and her right to appeal (as the appeal process must be done within a certain time). The Black counselor assured the mother that she was going to try to have the weapons “charge” removed. Although the Black counselor documented and provided these details about this case, it was met with refusal to change this student’s record. Instead it led to retaliation for the counselor.
Please note, for those that are saying as the district has said that the principal was Black so it couldn’t have been wrong, understand that the Black principal is part of the systemic racism and systemic oppression by this district and she wants to keep her job so she must do as she is told. You are to “go along to get along”. You make no waves, then nothing bad happens to you.
A few other facts of this case study. One, if a student brings a weapon to school, then there are protocols that must happen. A threat assessment must be completed by members of the threat assessment team, and if needed a mobile assessment must be done. All of this is supposed to occur with parent permission. This did not happen in this case when it was deemed that the student had brought a weapon. Two, you can board an airplane (meaning pass through TSA) with a disposable razor. So, in the real world, a disposable razor is not considered a weapon – only at school – in this particular situation I guess. Several teachers have discussed this topic in private and they all agree that if a disposable razor is considered a weapon, then a pencil sharpener should also be considered a weapon as students are always removing the screw to play with the blade. In fact, it’s easier to get the blade out of this pencil sharpener, than it is a disposable razor.
As a final note, I read the email response from Dr. Chris Kolb, JCPS Board Member and his attack on Gay Adelmann. I just want to put it out there that Gay Adelmann uses her white privilege to help Black people. She is open enough that when she misses the “boat”, then she receives feedback from Black people. She apologizes and attempts to correct her errors without arguing back and forth. Black people use her platform, privilege, and voice to prevent further retaliation from systems such as JCPS. There were several Black signatures on the email sent to the board members, but Kolb simply wanted to pick out Gay and state that she is a “joke” and anyone associated with her is a “joke.” No, the joke is on the board members who allow all types of things to happen within JCPS right under their noses and do nothing to get to the bottom of it. As our elected representatives, you all need to dig deeper in order to right the wrongs.
Black Educator Friend of the Black Counselor
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