The Progressive - October 22, 2019

"The strict rules and guidelines in charter schools lead to seemingly shocking reasons for suspensions. Two black girls weresuspendedfor wearing their hair in a braided style at a Massachusetts charter school."

In late September, headlines flickered across my Twitter timeline about a six-year-old black girl who was arrested at school for a temper tantrum. In outrage and confusion, I opened up the articles to understand how such a thing could happen. 

It turns out that, actually, two six-year-olds were arrested. Their mugshots were taken. Both were charged with misdemeanors. 

Meralyn Kirkland came forward to the media to identify her granddaughter, Kaia, as one of the two children arrested. Kaia has sleep apnea and didn’t get enough rest the night prior, the grandmother explained. When she was taken to the office for being disruptive, she was grabbed by the wrist by a school staffer and began to kick. She was then arrested and charged.

Following public outcry, the charges against the children were dropped and the school resource officer who arrested them was fired. Despite these developments, the fact remains: six-year-olds were arrested.

It takes some digging through all the media headlines to find out, all this happened at a charter school. 

The public school system gets a lot of (well-deserved) heat for the school-to-prison pipeline—for pushing children through disciplinary practices into the juvenile justice system and, eventually to prison. This pipeline disproportionately impacts students of color. Often, privately operated charter schools are exempt from criticism in the unique role they play in the pipeline.

Some charter schools—lacking the mandate that traditional public schools have to provide an education for all students—implement a “no-excuses” discipline policy. These policies can result in increased suspensions and expulsions for even minor violations. 

Milwaukee, Wisconsin has seen the effects of charter school “no-excuses” policies. 

“The most a parent can do if their child is expelled from a charter school is return them to Milwaukee Public Schools or try to send them to another charter,” Angela Harris, a Milwaukee Public School teacher, tells The Progressive.

Studies have shown that students who are suspended, especially repeatedly, are more likely to drop out of school and end up in jail. Milwaukee already has among the highest incarceration rates for black men in the country.

“In terms of the way that black students are criminalized, I think that both charter schools and public schools are guilty of feeding black students into the school to prison pipeline,” Harris said. “The difference, I believe, is that charter schools have the ability to control their student population.” ...
Read full report at The Progressive