On Wednesday Time magazine posted an article written by Sherrilyn Ifill – President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF). This gist of Ifill’s post is that black school children disproportionately represent a large number of school discipline cases, and that the “school-to-prison” pipeline creates an environment in which black children (particularly boys) are more likely to be labeled as “dangerous”.
The school-to-prison pipeline has been, without question, built on the foundation of racially discriminatory school discipline practices. Every study that has examined harsh school disciplinary policies has revealed that such policies are visited with greater frequency on children of color. In 2013, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund filed a complaint challenging the practice of the Bryan Independent School District in Brazos County, Texas, of issuing Class C misdemeanor tickets to high school students for disrupting class or swearing; although black students constituted only 21% of the school population, 46% of the misdemeanor tickets were issued to African-American students. Similarly, the Department of Justice challenged the school discipline practices in Meridian, Mississippi, where the majority African-American high school sent its own kids to a juvenile detention facility over minor disciplinary incidents.
More broadly, African-American girls are 5.5 times more likely to be suspended from school than their white peers, according to the National Women’s Law Center, and 18% of African American boys received out-of-school suspensions versus only 5% of white boys, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education. Children as young as 5 or 6 years old have been handcuffed in schools and even arrested, which happened to a Miami boy who was led away from school in handcuffs after an altercation with a teacher earlier this year. The children subjected to this kind of harsh treatment are almost always children of color.
There’s no arguing with statistics, although there’s a valid argument to be had about causality and economics. But the statistics aren’t the real drive of this article. Ifill’s ultimate point is much darker…and outrageous.
Armed teachers will shoot their black students.
It does not take a great deal of imagination to contemplate instances in which armed teachers dealing with recalcitrant children will react out of fear and racial stereotype and discharge their weapons as they do the disciplinary code. Police officers — ostensibly trained in the use of firearms and the observation of criminal behavior — have shot and killed black children at an alarming rate, often citing their fear of the child or mistaken belief that the child was armed. They rarely, if ever, pay the consequences. We have every reason to believe that armed teachers will react similarly and keep their jobs with impunity.
There are so many things that are wrong and disturbing about this theory that one hardly knows where to start. I suppose we should start with the most obvious point, one that continues to be ignored by a rabid mainstream media more concerned with click-bait headlines than disseminating information:
No one is calling for a massive army of gun-wielding teachers, regardless of their feelings about guns. The proposal to “arm teachers” is simply a proposal to allow teachers who are trained, certified and wish to be armed as another line of defense against school shooters. There is no one calling for the mandatory arming of all teachers. That is pure madness. No responsible gun owner or 2A supporter wants a person who doesn’t want a gun to have one.
That is just the tip of the iceberg, however. What is most outrageous is Ifill’s suggestion that the only reason teachers aren’t shooting and killing their black students right now is because they don’t have guns. Give a teacher a gun and look out! Mr. Jenkins’ history class will become a killing field! That home economics teacher has just been waiting for the opportunity to lay out her black students.
What is this madness? Are we to believe that teachers are inherently untrustworthy and mass murderers just waiting for the legal opportunity to fatally punish their misbehaving students? Even the statistics Ifill quotes don’t bear any evidence of that, regardless of the bias they may seem to present.
Discipline and suspensions cannot be conflated with murder. To put those two concepts in the same breath is ridiculous and nonsensical.
As we speak, teachers in West Virginia are striking for a raise in benefits. The NAACP is a strident supporter of teacher’s unions and public education. There has been an endless stream of pleading from the likes of Ifill to unequivocally support their strike, regardless of the specific details of their situation or the arguments for other solutions. We must support teachers no matter what because in America teachers are on par with saints. Their cause is always just and their demands are always reasonable.
So which is it? Do we love and support our public educators without question or do we view them as murderers who just haven’t got their hands on the right weapons yet?
Do we value our teachers or are we terrified of our teachers?
This article also supposes that armed teachers would just have access to their weapons willy-nilly. As if a school-board approved, trained and certified teacher would just have his or her gun sitting on the corner of the desk to grab whenever the notion strikes them. Of course, this is indicative of the thinking of the anti-2A crowd these days. People who know nothing about guns, how to use them or how they are legally stored typically have some Hollywood-ized notion in their heads of gun owners wading through piles of weapons on their way to grab a beer from the fridge.
To be fair, Ifill does mention that mental health is a big part of the issue and we need better ways of identifying at-risk children early, and then we need to be empowered to act on that information.
We should explore why those interventions failed and invest in services that can effectively spot and treat a child demonstrating the dysfunctions that Cruz displayed from a very young age. To bring the child closer rather than push him or her to a cycle of more violence and self-destruction.
However, even if Ifill’s weird characterization of murderous teachers were true, no certified armed teacher would even have direct and immediate access to a weapon in a moment of “brown panic”. They won’t be wearing them on their hips as the kids walk in for their weekly Spanish lesson. This may be the most insane claim since an NAACP representative said a Trump judicial nominee was “tantamount to Hitler”…and that was yesterday.
To suggest that the only difference between a teacher willing to murder her black students and the saintly teacher sacrificing her own financial comfort to teach her black students is whether or not she’s certified to use a gun is outrageous and offensive to every dedicated educator America.
This is nothing but more hysterics disguised as “intelligent” analysis. I cannot keep up with the absurd mixed messages coming from the left in this country.
As a black mother raising a black son, am I supposed to be scared of the police or am I supposed to support them being the only ones allowed to be armed in this country? Am I supposed to fear Trump’s Hitler-esque regime or am I supposed to give the government complete and total control over my God-given rights and my safety?
It certainly is interesting that the very people who espouse complete reliance on and trust of government and its employees to cure all of society’s ills are also the same people who are telling us our government employees are murderous racists.