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Published 02/14/2020 | Reading Time 2 min 48 sec
By Kelisa Wing
Black Lives Matter. This statement has sparked inspiration, fear and anger across this nation, but this has always been the message that Black people in America have tried to convey since enslaved Africans were brought to this country in 1619.
When Plessy v. Ferguson was being fought in the Supreme Court, we were only trying to make Black lives matter. When Brown v. the Board of Education was the case of the time, we were simply trying to convey that Black lives must matter everywhere, but specifically at school.
If Black lives truly matter at school, then we must invest in programs that promote growth rather than barriers. One such area is ensuring that school funding is utilized to support students who are at potential (please STOP saying children are at risk—it is problematic and underscores a lack of belief in our babies).
We know that having resource officers in schools who lack counseling support only leads to a system that is built to police our students as opposed to promoting promise.
Unfortunately, we have seen what happens when resource officers are disciplining our students.
- Last April in Chicago, a police officer punched and dragged a 16-year-old girl down the stairs for having her cell phone out. Let that sink in—a girl was assaulted at school for using a phone—Black lives need to matter at school.
- Another 11-year-old girl in New Mexico was slammed to the ground for taking more milk from lunch than she was supposed to.
- In North Carolina, a school resource officer body-slammed an 11-year-old boy, knocking him unconscious. Black lives need to matter at school!
- In Texas, a resource officer slammed a girl to the concrete after grabbing her from behind around her neck. Black lives need to matter at school!
- In Virginia, a 6-year-old boy was questioned and accused of stealing chips by a school resource officer, only to find out that the chips were misplaced—that boy was my son.
He came home scared, knowing the conversations I had with him about what to do if stopped or questioned by a police officer. In the scenarios that played out in my mind, my focus was in the streets, but as Ta-Nehisi Coates so eloquently states in his book “Between the World and Me,” the streets and the school have become beasts of the same form,
“Fail in streets and the crews would take your body. Fail in the schools and you would be suspended and sent back to those same streets, where they would take your body. And I began to see these two arms in relation—those who failed in the schools justified their destruction in the streets. The society could say, ‘He should have stayed in school,’ and then wash its hands of him.”
We had to unpack that with our son, who is in first grade. Black lives need to matter at school!
Our schools are setting our youth up for failure when we invest more in school resource officers than school counselors.
There are so many more cases of mistreatment at the hands of school resource officers, and it only further underscores the school-to-prison pipeline. When Black lives matter at school, we provide resources for our students. All of the aforementioned students were failed in multiple ways by a school system that was supposed to provide them access to college and career opportunities.
Could it be the young lady who had her phone out needed it to solve a math problem?
Could it be that the little girl from New Mexico was hungry due to circumstances in the home?
Did we explore what lies beneath the surface of the willful defiance of our students is sometimes a mask to conceal the issues they may be going through on a day-to-day basis?
One resource our schools can use to ensure that Black lives matter in school is to check out Counselors Not Cops. This resource resets the focus on our students and what they need to be successful and highlights the need for resources that support our students’ needs. Black lives need to matter in schools—not just during Black Lives Matter at School Week and in February, but every day!
Kelisa Wing is the author of “Weeds & Seeds: How To Stay Positive in the Midst of Life’s Storms” and “Promises and Possibilities: Dismantling the School to Prison Pipeline” (both available on Amazon). She also is a 2017 State Teacher of the year, speaker, teacher and activist for discipline reform.