Feb 14 2013

For Black Youth, The School-to-Prison Pipeline Has Been Active Since At Least 1969…

Her name was Dorothy Young and she was sentenced to a reformatory for allegedly cursing at a white boy in 1969. Jet Magazine (2/27/1969) reported:

For allegedly calling a white boy a “bastard,” telling him where to kiss her and using the words “damn” and “goddamn” on a school bus, Dorothy Young, 14, of Sylvester, Ga., is confined indefinitely to a reformatory known as the Regional Youth Development Center in Sandersville, Ga. She is the first child sent there from her county in three years.

Dorothy’s sister, Yvonnne, 11, was accused of using similar profane language to a white boy a year older than she and is serving a year’s probation.

Dorothy and her sister Yvonne were among a handful of other black children who had decided to attend all white schools under the “freedom of choice plan.”

Apparently Dorothy had been reprimanded before for the use of profanity by school officials. She was also written up for “refusing to pick up pecan hulls she dropped on the floor of a school bus.”

Dorothy’s mother, Mrs. Ida Mae Young, explained that her daughter was being antagonized by the white boy:

“Last November Dorothy and Will Aultman, a 14-year-old white boy, were on a school bus and he threw a spitball at her. Dorothy jumped on him and whipped him. Nothing was done to the Aultman boy.”

The Jet article points out that Dorothy could be incarcerated until she was 21 years old but that the judge suggested that a 6 month sentence is more typical.

Dorothy’s younger sister was also tormented by a 12 year old white boy named Joseph Owens at another school. She was suspended from school and Owens escaped disciplining.

Mrs. Young shared the tribulations of her 16 year old son who had to drop out of school in the 11th grade because white students “heckled him so bad he doesn’t want anything to do with it.” Jet reported:

“Leroy Jr. was in jail for shooting back at white bigots who fired on their home twice and for protesting his sister’s confinement with a group of SCLC workers. He is awaiting court action for the shooting incident.”

Mr. Leroy Young Sr., the father of all of the children, was fired from his job at a fertilizer plan where he had worked for four years after the troubles with his family. The Young family’s home was also targeted by whites who shot at it twice and threw a Molotov cocktail in their yard. Blacks in the community believed that the two girls had been targeted because they had chosen to attend all-white schools under the “freedom of choice plan.”

The judge who Dorothy appeared before apparently said in issuing his judgement that: “There is no other way of disciplining her.” His order read:

“Dorothy Belle Young is in a state of delinquency, in that said juvenile did use vile, obscene and profane language to one Will Aultman another juvenile about 14 years of age, and in the presence of numerous other juvenile children, knowingly, and willfully and without just cause.”

Coretta Scott King intervened in her case by writing a letter to Congressman John Conyers (who is still in Congress today representing Michigan):

“Although you are aware of the intimidation taking place in Sylvester, Ga., in which the children of a dedicated family are victims and are brutalized both physically and psychologically. I hope you can make the situation known to broader circles in the country.”

Congressman Conyers followed up with U.S. Associate Deputy Attorney General George H. Revercomb after receiving Mrs. King’s letter. In response to the Young family’s troubles, the SCLC launched protests at Dorothy’s school, J.W. Helley High School and at the Worthy County Courthouse and Jail. Ten SCLC Atlanta staffers and 125 other people were arrested and charged with marching without a permit.

This incident brought Rev. Ralph Abernathy to the town of Sylvester:

“Rev. Ralph D. Abernathy, president of the SCLC, told a crowd of 500 persons in Jones Chapel in Sylvester that he would return and go to jail if necessary. Rev. Abernathy told JET: “I am going to map out a program for Worthy County, we are going to step up the protests, call a school boycott and an economic boycott.” He added: “It’s tragic that this little girl had to suffer before the people would open their eyes to the situation here.”

One week after her story appeared in JET Magazine, Dorothy Young was released from the Reformatory on her own recognizance until her attorney could appeal her case to the Georgia Supreme Court. Dorothy was released on her birthday and her family & supporters took the opportunity to lead a “birthday march” to protest her incarceration. Good for them!