“We must maintain law and order at the highest level or we will cease to have a country…I am the law and order candidate.” —Donald Trump
Classrooms are microcosms of society.
Music that echoes into our streets from car stereos, politics that command our attention on television screens, humor and entertainment that we consume on our social media accounts managed via smartphones, all boisterously find their ways into classrooms. Societies ills and triumphs are reflected in our learning spaces, in some instances as mirrors, and in others, fragmented as though viewed through a prism.
School leaders and educators are limited in their ability to keep the happenings of society from entering the brick and mortar structures of their buildings, but they do possess a unique power in how they respond to these events; they can either choose to affirm what is seen and heard, or reject it. They can choose to empower or discourage.
Which is why the rhetoric and recent cabinet appointments of Donald Trump are without a doubt going to lead to an increase in the criminalization of our youth.
After unsettling statements like coining himself the “law and order candidate,” and support from organizations such as the Fraternal Order of Police, advocates against policing in schools should be uncomfortably concerned. School discipline is a topic at the focal point of conversations between reformers, advocates, educators, parents and politicians alike, but is a subject that is even more paramount as we gear up and steady ourselves for a new presidency under President-elect, Donald Trump.
The inevitable implications of these actions on Black and Brown students are shaping up to be a perfect storm of increased criminalization of Black and Brown youth. Trump has reiterated his fanatic support for unconstitutional and dehumanizing tactics such as Stop-and-Frisk, which there is strong evidence condemning its execution in Black and Brown communities.
If “law and order” and Stop-and-Frisk are Trump’s appeals to Black and Brown communities, and his appointment of Betsy Devos (who has no substantial experience working in public schools) is whom he places his confidence in to lead the U.S. educational system, the mindsets that validate these actions will undoubtedly continue to ooze down into school buildings through the mediums of inequitable discipline policies, school resource officers, metal detectors, and the arrest and harassment of children.
Environments of learning are too closely mimicking environments of incarceration.
Even today (we aren’t post-Obama yet), a Missouri statute intends to enact harsher consequences for students involved in fights. Regardless of age, students involved in fights on busses and school property can be charged with a felony, advancing the rampant issue of the school-to-prison pipeline.
Trumps sentiments are not without affirmation.
There is a dangerous narrative circulating on how to best control the bodies of Black and Brown youth, and a growing frustration with restorative practices that some believe are ineffective:
This statement comes from the comments section of a popular education blog in Georgia.
In a different article, former U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, recently stated that during Obama’s time in office there has been “undeniable” progress, but that “we still have many unmet challenges” including the disproportionate suspension and expulsion of students of color.
I want to believe that these tactics and policies will come to a halt; that Black and Brown boys and girls will no longer be suspended at outrageous rates beginning as early as pre-K; that we will vehemently part ways with “no excuses” schooling and zero-tolerance discipline; that we will ask, “What is our society doing to our Black and Brown students?” instead of, “What are our Black and Brown students doing to our society?”
I want to believe that our educational system will prioritize freedom, even when voluminous amounts of evidence tell me the opposite.
This fight is far from over.