Louisville Student Takes on School-to-Prison Pipeline

A Louisville student has organized a conference this weekend to discuss the School to Prison Pipeline, a concept that says many public school policies are resulting in a disproportionate number of minority and low-income students entering the justice system.

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony for the first time last year bringing national attention into the chambers of the federal government.

Now, St. Francis High School senior Anthony Perry is holding a conference at the Muhammad Ali Center this Sunday between 1-4pm to talk about the problem and strategies for improving results.

WFPL’s Devin Katayama sat down with Perry who looked at some of Jefferson County Public Schools’ data.

“One of the things that many students were getting put out of class for or suspended for were things such as disruptive behavior. How can you tell what disruptive behavior looks like? It can vary based on what the teacher feels and that can be affected by race, how the teacher feels about the student’s gender, different things of that nature. So when we see these blanketed policies being applied to areas where there’s a lot of gray then we run into issues like this.”

Perry looked at JCPS data via the district Data Book, which is released annually and includes various academic and non-academic data.

“In Jefferson County in 2010, 62 percent of the suspensions went to African American students and African American only make up roughly 30 percent of the population in the schools. Se when we have these imbalances that are developing and they’re also mimicking what’s going on in the prison system then those were the issues she was highlighting and pointing out to me.

“When I was looking on JCPS’ website, Shawnee High School here in Louisville, they have close to 500 students or more and last year they administered over 700 suspensions. Then I looked at DuPont Manual High School and then they have 1,800 plus students. However they only administered around 28 suspensions.

“So when we look at these numbers, there’s something going on. Unless we’re willing to say that these students are inherently bad and that they’re inherently more likely to get into trouble then there’s no reason to explain these numbers.”

What if people do say students’ behavior in Shawnee is worse than Manuel?

“Then what I would say in response is, where have they been failed along the line? Because you don’t come out of the womb inherently bad. It’s not born into your psyche. So there’s something going on that transforms these students into that whether its their environment, something of that nature, but these are all things that are able to change.”

Devin Katayama

Devin Katayama host middays for WFPL and reports on education and other Louisville issues.

@DevinWFPL

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