The School to Prison Pipeline: An Open Letter to Birdville ISD

To the Birdville Independent School Districts Trustees, Administration, and Community:

I am writing to you to shine a light on the school to prison pipeline, and Richland High Schools culpability to this problem in BISD.

As a point of reference, Richland High School is still under investigation by the Office of Civil Rights, for multiple complaints in 2015 of racism and discrimination perpetuated by Richland High school and its environment. I recently confirmed this ongoing investigation with the Office of Civil Rights.

The school to prison pipeline is a disturbing national trend wherein students of color are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Many of these children have learning disabilities or histories of poverty, abuse, or neglect, and would benefit from additional educational and counseling services. Instead, they are isolated, punished, and pushed out.

The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights CIVIL RIGHTS DATA COLLECTION Data Snapshot of School Discipline report shows that on a national level 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. American Indian and Native-Alaskan students are also disproportionately suspended and expelled, representing less than 1% of the student population but 2% of out-of-school suspensions and 3% of expulsions. Black girls are suspended at higher rates (12%) than girls of any other race or ethnicity and most boys; American Indian and Native-Alaskan girls (7%) are suspended at higher rates than white boys (6%) or girls (2%).

While 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.

All of this to say that the data revealed that a student who was suspended or expelled for a discretionary violation was nearly three times as likely to be in contact with the juvenile justice system the following year (https://csgjusticecenter.org/youth/breaking-schools-rules-report/).

Now, let’s discuss Richland High School 2017-2018 Data taken from the Texas Education Agency:

Richland High School (RHS) Total Students: 2,158
9% Black
1% American Indian
5% Asian
30% Hispanic
1% Native Hawaiian/Other or Pacific Islander
3% Two or More Races
51% White

RHS Removed 66 for DAEP(Disciplinary Alternative Education Program)
Out of those 66:
0% Asian
18% Black
47% Hispanic
0% Two or More
35% White
= 65% students of color are removed for DAEP, yet the school population is only 47% students of color.

RHS gave 174 Out of School Suspension
Out of those 174:
0% Asian
18% Black
47% Hispanic
0% Two or More
35% White
= 65% students of color received out of school suspension, yet the school population is only 47% students of color.

RHS gave 999 In School Suspensions
Out of those 999:
1% Asian
13% Black
43% Hispanic
2% Two or More
41% White
= 59% students of color received in school suspensions, yet the school population is only 47% students of color

RHS Disciplined 1239 students in total (DAEP, Out of school, In School Suspensions)
Out of those 1239:
1% Asian
13% Black
43% Hispanic
2% Two or More
41% White
=59% students of color received discipline, yet the school population is only 47% students of color.

We can look back at previous years and see that this data has not changed, or improved.

In 2014 The U.S. Department of Education (ED), in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), released a school discipline guidance package that assists states, districts, and schools in developing practices and strategies to enhance school climate, and ensure those policies and practices comply with federal law.

So what must we do as a community, when we know that those students that are already on the margins of society are being treated unjustly in the very place in which we hope is a safe place for all students.

The answer is we must ask questions to those in charge of these precious students.

BISD has a strategic plan created by the very trustee institution in which I am addressing tonight. A few of the stated Beliefs of the strategic plan are that

“We believe that …

  1. Human beings are complex with unique
    intellectual, social, emotional, and physical
    needs.
  2. Every person is unique by design, with
    abilities, gifts and talents.”

These are admirable statements, that would warrant the inclusion of all students, so why can’t BISD, specifically Richland High school follow this belief system when applied to students of color?

The list goes on, here is another

  1. With a privilege comes responsibility and accountability

This is a great tenant to live by and guide the district, and we must ask Richland High School, who is keeping you accountable to the students of color that you are so unfairly suspending?

The last belief statement on BISDs strategic plan is:

14. Change is constant.

BISD trustees and Mr. Superintendents, it’s time for a change at Richland High School. Dr. Brown and trustees, wouldn’t you like to have the legacy, under your leadership, to have changed the tide of racism at Richland High school, and live up to the parameters in your district’s strategic plan…those being….

  1. We will make decisions in the best interest
    of students.
  2. We will treat all people with dignity and
    respect.
  3. We will model and expect personal
    responsibility.
  4. We will practice responsible stewardship of
    our resources.
  5. We will not compromise our commitment
    to excellence with integrity.
  6. We will not give up on any student.

I look forward to working alongside all of you, to give the students at Richland High School a better environment in which to thrive as students and growing young people.

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