A recent article proposes several solutions for teaching children regarding the recent police shootings. The proposed solutions do not take into account the power structure that dominates the schools culture. Teachers will need to place a premium on developing classroom relationships before proceeding to teach children regarding the recent police shootings. According to the article, How should teachers and parents talk to kids about police violence?, schools need to respond to students in two very distinct ways. Steven Berkowitz, an associate professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, believes that schools should send the message to children younger than 8 that “This is all very complicated, but our job is to keep you safe. And that’s what we are going to do as adults.” He added that schools can teach older children that police violence is part of a larger societal patterns and problems.
One the one hand Berkowitz emphasis that younger children need to shut up while older children are to dumb to solve problems that lead to police shootings. Berkowitz solutions are problematic on several fronts. It takes little consideration of how the power structure between teachers and students has lead to the demise of many Black students. The school to prison pipeline is a product of this power structure. The school to prison pipeline actually begins in elementary school which is the initial introduction to law enforcement which can eventually become a major contribution to police shootings.
How does the school to prison pipeline contribute to police shootings?
The pattern for the disdain of authority which can eventually lead to police shootings begins in schools with the different teacher and student racial expectations. These differences ultimately result in a clash between the teacher and the student. This clash has become the product of the school-to-prison pipeline.
The United States Department of Education reported that Black children represent 18% of preschool enrollment, but 48% of preschool children receiving more than one out-of school suspension. While White students represent 43% of preschool enrollment but 26% of preschool children receiving more than one out of school suspension. This pattern continues through high school. Black students are suspended and expelled at a rate three times greater than White students. On average, 5% of White students are suspended, compared to 16% of Black students.
This imbalance of discipline has resulted in an unprecedented introduction to law enforcement for Black students. Even though Black students represent 16% of student enrollment, they represent 27% of students referred to law enforcement and 31% of students subjected to a school-related arrest. Alternatively, White students represent 51% of enrollment, 41% of students referred to law enforcement, and 39% of those arrested.
The school to prison pipeline not only creates a disdain for police in Black children, it also creates an attitude for privilege in White children. Many of the White children who observe the atrocities that Black children face come to the belief that it is natural to be racist against Blacks. Some of these same children become police officers. These same children, who are now adults have the belief that racism against Blacks is natural because it is a pattern that they have witnessed their entire life which result in an attitude that killing Blacks is acceptable.
Since the power structure between White teachers and Black students can lead to continuous confrontations as previously eluded to, teachers should digress from the normal established procedures that dominate the beginning of the school year.
For example, teachers normally establish classroom rules as part of establishing dominance in the classroom. Instead of this process, teachers can develop classroom rules in partnership with their students. This will help to minimize the power over structure that helps students to make correlations between teachers and law enforcement which ultimately can lead to police shootings.