Saturday, May 16, 2015

#JusticeForKayleb and the school to prison pipeline

At age 11, Kayleb Moon-Robinson is a nearly convicted felon. His crime is kicking a trash can, then being unnecessarily restrained by a police officer, while autistic and black. He's not the only one. Virginia, where Kayleb lives, also leads the nation in putting students through the juvenile justice system.

The rates of the school to prison pipeline and rates of incarceration of black individuals is staggeringly high, including those with disabilities of all kinds. The Civil Rights Division of the Education Department reported in 2014 that “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.” Read that again. They are subject to twice the rate of arrest than their actual population within the schools.

The Southern Poverty Law Center reported on Lousiana's record of discrimination. In it, there is a description of a black autistic girl – a 10 year old – having a meltdown in class and climbing out the window and up a tree. The police dragged her down from the tree and handcuffed her to the ground.

And no, it's not because black people are inherently more in need of arrest. They've been arrested as things simple as throwing Skittles. These are things I can imagine a lot of middle schoolers doing. The American Civil Liberties Union has some recommendations on what to do about it for schools, and it is clear that any solution must involve advocates of color.

And often, while disability can be a factor in the school to prison pipeline, disability advocacy focuses on the disability and leaves the race behind as a significant factor. I encourage any fellow white advocates reading this to examine the intersections of racism and ableism.


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