Category: Education

Jul 01 2014

Image of the Day: Samuel Green – Criminalizing Reading

Read about Samuel Green’s case here.

Samuel Green sentenced to the penitentiary for ten years for having a copy of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" in his house. (1872) Source: The underground railroad: A record of facts, authentic narratives, letters, & c., narrating the hardships, hair-breadth escapes, and death struggles of the slaves in their efforts for freedom, as related by themselves and others or witnessed by the author : together with sketches of some of the largest stockholders and most liberal aiders and advisers of the road.

Samuel Green sentenced to the penitentiary for ten years for having a copy of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” in his house. (1872)
Source: The underground railroad: A record of facts, authentic narratives, letters, & c., narrating the hardships, hair-breadth escapes, and death struggles of the slaves in their efforts for freedom, as related by themselves and others or witnessed by the author : together with sketches of some of the largest stockholders and most liberal aiders and advisers of the road.

Jun 03 2014

Collateral Consequences of Criminalizing School Discipline…

The Advancement Project is out with a good short video that updates Kiera Wilmot’s case. Kiera is a Florida high school student who was arrested and charged with two felonies for a botched science experiment. The Advancement Project video speaks to the collateral consequences of criminalizing school discipline and the school-to-prison pipeline.

May 21 2014

More Sights From Locked Up & Locked Out March & Action

So many wonderful images from Monday’s Locked Up and Locked Out action and march keep coming in and I also couldn’t include all of the photographs in yesterday’s post

by Tommy Callahan (5/19/14)

by Tommy Callahan (5/19/14)

by Bob Simpson (5/19/14)

by Bob Simpson (5/19/14)

by Bob Simpson (5/19/14)

by Bob Simpson (5/19/14)

by Holly Krig (5/19/14)

by Holly Krig (5/19/14)

by Sehar Sufi (5/19/14)

by Sehar Sufi (5/19/14)

Read more »

May 07 2014

An Afternoon at Stateville Prison…

by Henry Lovett, a prisoner at Stateville Prison (2013)

by Henry Lovett, a prisoner at Stateville Prison (2013)

Last Thursday, I wasn’t at my best. Days of illness had taken their toll. Yet I’d made a commitment several weeks earlier to teach a session in my friend Amy’s history class at Stateville Prison. It’s been some time since I’ve taught on the inside and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity.

So I woke up on Thursday, got on the EL, met Amy and Tess, and together we drove out to Stateville. Along the way, I peppered Amy with questions: How many students were there? Would I have access to a computer to play some audio interviews? Could I bring the publications that I had with me inside the prison? She patiently responded to each query.

We arrive and go through the protocols. I leave my cell phone and purse in the trunk of Tess’s car. I store my valuables in a locker inside the visitor’s center. We hand over our identification, sign in and wait to be wanded and searched. We walk through three sets of gates and are checked against various lists. Then we cross through the yard on our way to our makeshift classrooms.

Along the way, we are greeted by various prisoners.”Good morning, how are you?” they call out. Three women (who aren’t guards) briskly walking through a maximum security prison is a happening. Finally, we arrive in the classroom. Tess sets up the audio while Amy and I move the chairs to form a circle. As we work, we’re greeted by a couple of prisoners who engage us in conversation.

Read more »

Feb 25 2014

Calls to Action for Today: Support SB 2793/Oppose HB 4775

Sen Hutchinson- SB 2793

Amends the School Code. As part of the annual school report card, requires every school to provide (i) data on the issuance of out-of-school suspensions, expulsions, and removals to alternative settings, disaggregated by race and ethnicity, gender, age, grade level, limited English proficiency status, length of exclusion, reason for exclusion, and whether alternative educational options were provided; (ii) data on the use of arrests or criminal citations, disaggregated by race and ethnicity, gender, age, grade level, disability status, limited English proficiency status, and alleged criminal offense; and (iii) data on student retention during and between academic years, disaggregated by race and ethnicity, gender, age, grade level, disability status, limited English proficiency status, and the reason for the student’s departure. Sets forth requirements and exemptions concerning the data, including requiring the State Board of Education to analyze the data on an annual basis and determine the top quartile of school districts for specified metrics. Requires certain districts identified by the State Board to submit a school discipline improvement plan identifying the strategies it will implement to reduce the use of harsh disciplinary practices or reduce the disproportionality evident in its disciplinary practices; sets forth other requirements.

Please file a witness slip in SUPPORT HERE.

1. Under Section I, fill in your identification information.
2. Under Section II, fill out your organization if you are representing one or write “self” if you are representing yourself. You can also just fill out N/A.
3. In Section III, select the “Proponent” button.
4. In Section IV, select “Record of Appearance Only.”
5. Agree to the ILGA Terms of Agreement
6. Select the “Create Slip” button.

Slips can be submitted until tonight at midnight, February 25

HB 4775 – Being called a NO-BRAINER BILL:

This bill permits students to be “pushed out” from the traditional school setting for a mere arrest. A basic tenet of the U.S. justice system is to be considered innocent until proven guilty. In essence, it disregards due process protections any accused individual is guaranteed.

This violation may result in an expulsion lasting to 2 calendar years at the discretion of individual school administration.

Discretionary application of school discipline code has been found —and continues to be observed — to have disparate impact on youth of color.

Amends the School Code. Allows a school board to suspend or authorize the superintendent of the district or the principal, assistant principal, or dean of students of a school to suspend a student for a period not to exceed 10 school days or to expel a student for a definite period of time not to exceed 2 calendar years, as determined on a case-by-case basis, if the student has been charged with a violent felony and the charges are pending or if the student has been convicted of a violent felony. Defines “violent felony”. Effective immediately.

Please file a witness slips in OPPOSITION to HB 4775 HERE.

1. Under Section I, fill in your identification information.
2. Under Section II, fill out your organization if you are representing one or write “self” if you are representing yourself. You can also just fill out N/A.
3. In Section III, select the “Opponent” button.
4. In Section IV, select “Record of Appearance Only.”
5. Agree to the ILGA Terms of Agreement
6. Select the “Create Slip” button.

Slips can be submitted until tomorrow, February 26 at midnight

Feb 17 2014

Call to Action: Please Support SB 2760 and SB 2793 TODAY – Addressing School to Prison Pipeline

It’s that time of year again. This time, I am asking that you support two Senate bills that are intended to address school discipline issues in various ways. One focuses on school-based policing and the other on data transparency.

Sen Lightford- SB 2760 — FILE A WITNESS SLIP IN SUPPORT TODAY HERE.

Amends the School Code. Provides that (i) prior to being asked any question or being requested to make any statement while in the presence of a police officer, a student must be informed of the right not to answer any question or to make any statement in the presence of a police officer; (ii) prior to being asked any question or being requested to make any statement while in the presence of a police officer, a student must be informed of the right to have a parent, a guardian, or an attorney present during such questioning or request for a statement; (iii) prior to being asked any question or being requested to make any statement while in the presence of a police officer, a student must be informed that any information given in the presence of a police officer may result in an arrest and in the issuing of a summons and may be used in school discipline and in criminal prosecution; (iv) prior to the presence of a police officer during the questioning of a student or of a request for a statement, the school principal shall approve the presence of the police officer during the questioning of or while making a request for any statement from the student; and (v) prior to the presence of a police officer during the questioning of or while making a request for any statement from a student, a parent or guardian of the student must be given notification of the opportunity to be present during the questioning. Sets forth provisions concerning the notification, school principal and police officer consultation, and tracking and reporting data. Effective July 1, 2014.

Sen Hutchinson- SB 2793 Please file a witness slip in SUPPORT HERE.

Amends the School Code. As part of the annual school report card, requires every school to provide (i) data on the issuance of out-of-school suspensions, expulsions, and removals to alternative settings, disaggregated by race and ethnicity, gender, age, grade level, limited English proficiency status, length of exclusion, reason for exclusion, and whether alternative educational options were provided; (ii) data on the use of arrests or criminal citations, disaggregated by race and ethnicity, gender, age, grade level, disability status, limited English proficiency status, and alleged criminal offense; and (iii) data on student retention during and between academic years, disaggregated by race and ethnicity, gender, age, grade level, disability status, limited English proficiency status, and the reason for the student’s departure. Sets forth requirements and exemptions concerning the data, including requiring the State Board of Education to analyze the data on an annual basis and determine the top quartile of school districts for specified metrics. Requires certain districts identified by the State Board to submit a school discipline improvement plan identifying the strategies it will implement to reduce the use of harsh disciplinary practices or reduce the disproportionality evident in its disciplinary practices; sets forth other requirements.

If you’ve never filed a witness slip before, it’s simple and only takes two minutes:
1. Go to the House Judiciary Hearing website HERE
2. Click on the right icon under the “Witness Slips” column for SB 2760 and 2793 to create witness slips.
3. Under Section I, fill in your identification information.
4. Under Section II, fill out your organization if you are representing one or write “self” if you are representing yourself. You can also just fill out N/A.
5. In Section III, select the “Proponent” button.
6. In Section IV, select “Record of Appearance Only.”
7. Agree to the ILGA Terms of Agreement
8. Select the “Create Slip” button.

Slips can be submitted until tomorrow, February 18 at 12:30 p.m.

Dec 26 2013

2013 in Review: 10 Ways Chicago Youth Organize(d) to Dismantle the Carceral State

One of the many reasons that I love living in Chicago is because of the wonderfully inspiring young people who I am privileged to work with and to know. In 2013, I was as encouraged as ever by their activism and organizing. Below are just a few of the actions and campaigns that I have followed and/or supported in some way. This is not even the tip of the iceberg in terms of youth activism and organizing that has taken place in Chicago this year. For example, many young people protested and organized against ALEC when they came to Chicago for their annual conference in August. Listen to Asha, a young organizer, discuss the group’s problematic nature here. Please feel free to offer your examples in the comments section.

1. Chicago Students Opposing School Closures, High Stakes Testing, and Budget Cuts

by Sarah Jane Rhee (5/15/13) - Vigil to Stop School Closings

by Sarah Jane Rhee (5/15/13) – Vigil to Stop School Closings

Young people were fully engaged in the struggle against school closings. You can find some of the posts that I wrote about their activism and organizing here, here, here, and here.

At the forefront of the student mobilization were the young people of Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools (CSOSOS).

Despite the fact that 50 schools were closed, students are not deterred. They have joined together to launch the Chicago Student Union insisting that their voices be included & heard in any educational decision-making. Chicago student activism hasn’t ebbed as they continue to protest budget cuts, high stakes testing, the school-to-prison pipeline, and education privatization.

2. Trauma Center Campaign: Fearless Leading by the Youth and Rise Chicago

by Sarah Jane Rhee (11/20/13)

by Sarah Jane Rhee (11/20/13)

I started writing about the youth-led campaign to bring a level-1 trauma center for people ages 16 and over to the Southside of Chicago a couple of years ago. This year kicked off with a violent police assault against peaceful protesters (including several youth and adults who I know). There were arrests and eventual acquittals for some of the adult protesters. This event galvanized more people to join in the effort spearheaded by the youth of FLY three years ago to bring an adult trauma center to the Southside.

You can read an update about the campaign (which is ongoing) here. You can read some of my posts here, here, here, and here.

Read more »

Oct 03 2013

Educate, Don’t Incarcerate: National Week of Action against School Pushout

This week is the National Week of Action against School Pushout and my organization has been actively involved.

We co-organized, along with our comrades at the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance and the Chicago Freedom School, a wonderful event that took place on Monday evening. The event “Stand Up/Speak Out About School Pushout: A Youth Panel & Town Hall” drew an intergenerational packed house.

photo by Sarah Jane Rhee (9/30/13)

photo by Sarah Jane Rhee (9/30/13)

Read more »

Aug 29 2013

All of a Piece: Reflecting on Struggle & Resistance in the Windy City

I woke up early yesterday. I had even less than my regular four hours of sleep. I was determined to attend the Chicago Board of Education meeting and then to participate in two rallies for education justice and police accountability.

It turns out that I missed the rallies. We waited nearly two & a half hours for the public comment section of the Board meeting to begin. It is excruciating to quietly sit in uncomfortable chairs while blatant falsehoods are offered without challenge.

I thought about leaving early without making my statement but I am accountable to a group of people who have been working on the issue of school discipline data transparency for almost two years now. So I gritted my teeth and stayed put.

Meanwhile outside of the Board meeting, students, parents, educators, and community members were protesting CPS’s closing of schools and the proposed deep budget cuts for the remaining ones. Protesters then marched to City Hall to demand an elected school board. Make no mistake about it, young people were at the forefront of the protests. Students had called on their peers to boycott school and dozens of young people responded by taking to the streets.

photo by Sarah Jane Rhee (8/28/13)

photo by Sarah Jane Rhee (8/28/13)

Read more »

Aug 26 2013

Anxiety and Worry: Back to School… in Chicago

Emmet Elementary School by Jessica Rodrigue

Emmet Elementary School by Jessica Rodrigue

The haunting photograph above by Jessica Rodrigue captures and embodies disinvestment and institutional violence. Emmet Elementary school is located on the Westside of Chicago. Today, as students return to school across the city, Emmet stands padlocked and empty. It is one of the 49 schools that were closed by CPS.

I am anxious and unsettled. I’m worried about this school year. Already, I am hearing from teacher friends that they have class rosters with 35 and 38 students. The mother of Asean Johnson, a 9 year old who came to national attention this Spring during protests against school closings, appeared on television this weekend to say that while her son’s school was saved from closing, he’ll have over 35 peers in his 4th grade classroom. This is in no way conducive to a quality education. Anyone who has spent ten minutes in a classroom can tell you this. Frankly, anyone who has been around two children for any length of time can attest to the difficulty of keeping them engaged and on task for an hour, let alone seven…

I fear that CPS is consigning a significant number of our young people to the trash bin; treating them as disposable.

Bontemps Elementary by Bill Healy (WBEZ)

Bontemps Elementary by Bill Healy (WBEZ)

So I am anxious and unsettled.

Read more »