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[dc]“T[/dc]hrow them under the jail!”, they say. “They’re a minus to society!”, they say. “Only a cage will suit their vulgarity!”, they say. What would you say as a juror to convict a felon under the age of 21 years?

Educational Misconduct

Before I Was a Felon, I Was a Victim of Educational Misconduct—Andrea London

Kayleb Moon-Robinson was only 11 years old when he was convicted of a felony assault charge for refusing to go to the principal’s office and shoving the school resource officer away. Go ahead, throw them under the jail so we can all be safe. Is this really how we solve the problem or just how we ignore it?

Education serves as a feeding tube for so many young people; it’s how you save them from starving to death.

Let’s rewind. When I was in nursing school, I did a rotation to the nursery. I held so many cute little babies. I felt that the innocence of the world was in my hands. Then, I did a rotation to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). My God, what did we do wrong? I met this one infant who had a tube in his stomach for feeding because he literally would not stop crying, not even to eat. It brought a whole new meaning to the saying, “Life just isn’t fair”. At least the healthcare system was able to give that baby a fighting chance with the feeding tube. The baby will have an opportunity to grow and not just die of starvation. Education serves as a feeding tube for so many young people; it’s how you save them from starving to death.

Although the healthcare system is limited financially, they are sympathetic to the needs of the public. The judicial system is not so sympathetic but maybe it is time for a change. Meet inmate Williams-1234. Williams was a regular middle school student until he witnessed his brother’s math teacher punch him in the stomach in the hallway. Immediately, Williams took out his phone to record the assault but after the single blow was delivered, there were no other strikes and Williams brother was balled up on the floor crying while the math teacher continues to point and yell at him. Williams was enraged to witness this act of violence and to know that the history teacher had purposely closed her classroom door after she noted the strike as well. Williams decided to “do what they do” and called the police on the teacher.

Today would be a lesson for Williams as he will learn what it is to be without civil liberties. By the time the police arrived, Williams and his brother were in detention for skipping class as they were waiting for the officer. The officer interviewed everyone separately and found no wrong doing by the math teacher per the history teacher’s statement and instead the boys were accused of missing class and disturbing the peace. Both boys were arrested. A week later Williams returns to school without his brother. William’s brother was sent to a psychological treatment facility for attempted suicide. Williams was determined to seek revenge on the math teacher.

Everyday Williams has his phone ready regretting the five second delay that cost his bother his sanity. One day Williams takes a restroom pass and catches the math teacher in the hallway with another student. Williams positions his phone to record but is caught by the hall monitor. The next day Williams is called to the principal’s office for a search. The math teacher removes Williams backpack and discovers a pocket knife. The principal confiscates the knife and the math teacher takes his phone. The police are called once again and Williams is not only arrested but also expelled from school. Williams gets hulled off yelling, “It’s not my knife! That was planted on me!” School-an environment without civil liberties.

Let’s fast forward. From that day forward, Williams has been on probation and in and out of juvenile hall. He dropped out of school and now appears in court at the age of 18 for drug possession with intent to sell and murder in the second degree. Williams admits to having the drugs and intending to sell them, yet he pleads not guilty. Williams pleads that he intended to sell the drugs out of self-defense and when an undercover cop tried to rob him of his supply that he shot the robber. Williams explains to the court that long before he was a thief or a murderer that he was robbed of his education and murdered of his academic transcript and criminal record by the administration at his middle school.

Williams continues stating that he is not guilty because he did what any reasonable person would do in a similar situation. Williams stated that he had been in and out of jail for almost 6 years and that he is amazed that some of the worst criminals have never even been arrested. Williams argues that his lack of an education disqualified him from competing for a decent job yielding his monthly income below the poverty line. Williams purposes to the court that if the government would have advocated for him in middle school and given him the right to due process that he wouldn’t need the years and years of food stamps and welfare that he will most likely require quite possibly for the rest of his life to care for his young family. Williams was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Go ahead, throw them under the jail so we can all be safe. Is this really how we solve the problem or just how we ignore it? In this situation, Williams asserts that if he had the right to due process in school then this could have protected his education and changed the course of his life. Williams asks, “Where is the 14th Amendment in Education Law?” Whether the meeting is formal or informal, without representation it is a bias, pointless meeting.

Williams does have a point here; penal law does not protect students from violence in school, Education Law does. Civil Law does not protect students from violations of their civil rights in school, Education Law does. Education Law code is sovereign in the school setting limiting the rights and liberties of the student body to administrative discretion. Teacher’s civil liberties used to also be limited by administrative discretion until they formed a union to gain empowerment. Throughout history many groups have formed unions or alliances to gain power. Students are American citizens and should be protected by the same constitutional rights that keep them safe outside of school.

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Why should an 18-year-old be encouraged to fight for our freedom in the military and not even be entitled to those liberties in high school? How can this same person be defended against false accusations in school if he has no right to Due Process? Student Advocates strives to be a National Student’s Union advocating issues concerning student civil liberties and education law code enforcement. Student Advocates works to put an end to educational misconduct by empowering the victims. A victim is the weaker party but we should all be equally protected under the law as this is what it means to be American.

Meet inmate Garcia-5678. Garcia was the most excited freshman in high school until she got her schedule. Garcia noticed that her schedule still had her labeled as an English as a second language (ESL) student. Garcia went to the counselor to contest her schedule and have it changed. Garcia explained to the counselor that she must not be labeled as an ESL student because she doesn’t need any extra help with language and that she would not be able to participate in any advanced or honors courses as long as she was labeled ESL. Garcia wanted to take honors calculus and French because she couldn’t decide if she wanted to be a scientist or an attorney. The counselor gave Garcia a parental waiver to be filled out so that she could receive a schedule change. A week later Garcia was alerted that the parental waiver had been denied and that she would continue to carry the ESL label for the duration of the school year.

Garcia cried when she read the denial letter all the way to the 8th page where it said, “If you are not satisfied with the results of the meeting and wish to appeal the Deputy Superintendent of Instruction decision, you may continue the appeal process through the School Board of Education and/or Legal system.” Garcia tried to encourage her parents to meet with the Superintendent so she could contest the class placement stating that she could translate for them. Garcia’s parents were too afraid as English was their second language and to challenge authority was not part of their culture.

So, Garcia was powerless in watching not only her friends slip away as they walked into their pre-calculus class but also her dreams of being an attorney or a scientist slip away as well. Garcia was wondering how she will compete for a scholarship with no advance courses on her transcript and instead ESL courses all throughout high school. Garcia knew that her family could not afford to send her to college. Garcia did visit her counselor several times before he offered her a job cleaning his home stating that ever since his wife died, he just couldn’t keep it clean. Garcia cleaned her counselor’s house for a year before the relationship became sexually inappropriate. Garcia quit working for him stating that she didn’t want to risk pregnancy.

Later that week Garcia’s counselor spotted her at a pep rally after school. He couldn’t resist and forced himself on Garcia. Garcia couldn’t tell her parents because she knew that English was their second language and to challenge authority was not part of their culture. Garcia didn’t tell anyone and eventually resumed her work for him as she needed to finance her abortion. Garcia appears before the court at age 18 facing 13 counts for prostitution, soliciting school mates to become prostitutes and knowingly spreading the virus that causes HIV. Garcia pleads not guilty stating that she did what any reasonable person would do in a similar situation stating that at first the money earned was for school but then everything just became a matter of survival. Garcia is sentenced to 8 years in state prison for child endangerment amongst other charges. So, what’s in every cell, a criminal or a victim?

Go ahead, throw them under the jail so we can all be safe. Is this really how we solve the problem or just how we ignore it? Garcia obviously was excited about learning. So, how important is class placement? Well, it depends on how important it is to obtain a scholarship whether it be for sports or academics. Some students cannot afford college and are heavily dependent on a partial or full scholarship. Not allowing them out of certain classes or into certain classes is just as detrimental to their ability to complete for a scholarship as giving them a faulty grade. Unfortunately, it would have been better if Garcia would have just denied her heritage, her culture and her native language and told her parents to deny knowledge of a second language on the Home Language Survey (HLS). Garcia did not have equal access to education or she would have been in pre-calculus with her friends since her grades were just as good as theirs in math and science.

The prison system not only has a revolving door but the education system is guaranteeing occupancy because without a GOOD education criminal activity is emanate. Garcia was not a victim of an unstable home environment or extreme poverty; she was a victim of the Educational System. It could be said that the school environment has the most influence on kids because they spend about 200 days in school every year which is more time than most kids spend with any individual at home. Even if the home environment is unstable, it does not disqualify a student from success but a denied application can even if the home environment is stable.

To require a language test to anyone who admits knowledge of a second language is punitive. To argue that ESL courses are in place to help English learners is conflicting when participating in the program is viewed as oppressive to the student who does not want to participate. Class placement used to be a matter of consent but now it’s a matter of convenience. Students can’t contest class placement. Parents can but not with success statistically. Student Civil Rights has a big effect on the quality of each student’s education and the path that will eventually lead them to contribute to or be a burden to society.

It is very difficult for a parent to advocate for their child because in the school setting students have a reduced right to civil liberties and even penal law codes can’t serve as a protection unless there is hard evidence or a felony charge. Often times, even if there’s hard evidence obtaining an adverse action from the school board takes months to years to observe due to the due process rights bestowed on the educators by the Teacher’s Union. Teachers should have rights to due process but so should the students since both are American citizens.

How can parents defend their children if their children have no right to pled their innocence, to contest the suspension, to prevent the arrest, to change the faulty grade, to expose the sexual abuse, to end the academic harassment, to have a chance at survival without needing the feeding tube. Give students equal protection under the law or invest heavily in the prison system. If a formal or informal meeting is to be had, the student should be given a representative to advocate the student’s rights.

Disciplinary action remains on a student’s transcript forever just as a conviction remains on an adult’s criminal record. A student’s transcript can have as negative an affect as an adult’s criminal record disqualifying the student from access to professional colleges, universities, co-op programs, trades, etc…. The state grants adults’ public defenders, students need the same to advocate for their innocence, their future, their freedom because how free can you be without an education?

amanda-london

Andrea London
Student Advocates