Dissed or Disciplined

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By Robert Lilly | April 1, 2010

Last month we announced to you the history and origins of Da’Cipher 360˚ Youth Peer Support Ministries. We explained to you that our aim was to both prevent incarceration and reinvent the once incarcerated. We have had a robust response from the youth which moves us toward the goal of establishing our work within the community as an indigenous effort, unfiltered by the ideas of those that are foreign to the struggles of our everyday common people.{{more}} Da’Cipher aims to achieve that goal of becoming the leading organization advocating for the concerns of the youth by empowering the youth themselves to become their own best defenders. This requires us to train and to facilitate their evolution away from apolitical and absentminded spectators of life to participators and initiators of their own ideas and strategies. It is absolutely the epitome of arrogance on our part as adults to think that we can do better at devising a system of defense for our children without their contribution. We at Da’Cipher have experienced first hand the giftedness of our children, and mind you that the great majority of the children we have at our disposal are those children labeled by the system as incorrigible and defiant. Despite these labels we have found the exact opposite to be the case. There is no denying that our children do have some serious issues in this day that we find ourselves. However, let us pause for a moment and consider what the source of these issues might be. Too often we are inclined to give the benefit of doubt to the system for defining our children to us for us. This is the mark of an oppressed and suppressed people. Consider for a moment a child who lives in a home with her family of 6 and that home has no hot water with which they can properly wash or cook. How might that affect their attitude toward school are their studies? We would think that this could seriously have an affect on that child’s self-esteem or confidence level. Perhaps that child would become very defensive and self-conscious. Another child sleeps very little due to the high levels of heat in the home because their is no air conditioning to speak of. This list could go on ad infinitum, but despite these possible scenarios we see children like this being labeled defiant or mentally challenged, when the real deal we just don’t want to have to face the causes of their behavior because that might mean we’d be charged with addressing the root of the problems. This is something we’d rather pass the buck on. As a case in point let us consider the education system, or AISD we have a system dominated by the majority group wherein we comprise a small percentage of its population and yet we are seeing high numbers for disciplinary actions against our children that, I would think, warrants our attention and perhaps investigation into the facts. Our children, and some of you parents can attest to this are being referred to psychiatric treatment and counseling and to be placed on medications for what the system labels behavioral and emotional maladies. Knowing our history in this nation places us in a much better position to be more cautious. Without knowledge of our history we are doomed to repeat it. To assume that these ‘educators’ always have our children’s best interest at heart would be the ultimate practice in folly. We must remain vigilant. We have had a number of cases come to our attention where children have been placed in ISS or OSS or RAC for minor infractions of school policy. These actions are taken under the color of policy known as your ‘Zero Tolerance’ policy. This policy was designed to equip schools with the authority to remove from campuses the most violent case scenarios. However, the outcome has been quite different from its intended purpose. All across our state African Americans, Latinos and special education students are finding themselves the target of this policy at alarming rates. As if that were not enough we are seeing in the studies done by highly qualified researchers that shows a connectedness between a child being placed within these alternative disciplinary classes and increasing incarceration rates in both juvenile and adult prisons. This report will inform you of the stakes that are on the table. Dr. Amos Wilson, in his seminal work The Blueprint for Black Power, implores the African American to realize that when it comes to our children these are our responsibility. We should not send our young ones off to these institutions that are riddled with the internal rot of racism and expect them to return to us functional and prepared. He states that the very nature of these institutions is to cripple us and this can be easily proven by one look at the curriculum; a curriculum that mentions our existence as only a side note or foot note on a page. We will never be as free as this nation promises us unless we take our destiny into our own hands and secure with it our rightful place at the table. We are going to continue our unrelenting battle against the forces of oppression that have morphed over time, these forces are the same ones we have in the past contended with. However, we mustn’t become anesthetized by the misnomers that these forces place upon themselves e.g. Criminal Justice, Independent Education, or Mental Health, all such agencies, when it comes to the disempowered and alienated minority groups of our nation, should be held with suspicion until proven otherwise. Ask yourself are our children safe, when across the state 100,000 students a year are sent to alternative discipline programs; or when these students sent to these programs have five times the drop out rate or when special education students are referred to these ‘disciplinary programs’ more than twice the rate of their population within the student body? This is a pipeline to prison that must be shut off. Ask yourself are we seeing ourselves and our children dissed or disciplined? You do the math and be the judge.