Why Black Children are being sent from Schools to Jails
Resubmitted By Eddie Griffin
Monday, July 30, 2007
The case of the Jena 6 black youth is hereby being resubmitted for your consideration, along with the following explanation of why certain children as harshly disciplined and prosecuted through our education system.
Office of the Governor
Attn: Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco
P.O. Box 94004
Baton Rouge, LA 70804-9004
RE: Pardon Mychal Bell & Free the Jena 6
BACKGROUND OF CASE:
On July 31, 2007, there will be a national rally behalf of six Jena juvenile defenders from further prosecution by the state of Louisiana. It is a fact that, in public schools around the United States, black children are disciplined more than white children. The harshest form of punishment is doled out through criminal prosecution. We find black boys being disproportionately criminalized.
The town of Jena, Louisiana, its public school system, and law enforcement allowed white children to tease, threaten, intimidate, and assault black children with impunity. When black youth defend themselves by retaliating, the local dominant white population assailed them with Jim Crow law and discriminatory practices. They prosecuted the black youth, while letting their own pass with egregious wrongdoings, along race lines.
Monday, July 30, 2007
Dear Governor Kathleen Blanco:
Please stop the prosecution of the Jena 6. Drop all charges and pardon Mychal Bell.
This is a classic case of racial injustice much like the Scottsboro boys. Do realize that these are children, high school students, who were caught up in a race tense situation. The Jena High School administration is the blame for allowing a white prank to go unpunished. The Jena police have acted as protectorates of white wrongdoers. The Jena district attorney’s office leveled some of the heaviest criminal offenses against six young black boys. Reading the sequence of events, you cannot help but realize that the “alleged” crimes were nothing more than a schoolyard fight, common to most high schools. But every high school does not take racial sides when administering punishment, as in the case of Jena, Louisiana.
The reputation of this great state is at stake.
REMEMBER: One out of every three African-American males, who go through the nation’s public school systems end up going to jail and prisons. Why so?
The Jena 6 case takes a common school yard fight, which grew out of racial tension, and treats it as a serious criminal offense. The application of law is so arbitrary that it can be said: The white people in Jena make the law up as it goes along. In so doing, they suppress the minority black population in submission, albeit aided by the school system, prosecution office, and local judicial system.
There are hundreds of school disciplinary incidents prosecuted each year as criminal offenses against black youth. The result is a pattern of misdemeanors, leading to incarceration.
In Paris, Texas, a 14-year old teenager shoves a teacher’s aide while trying to enter a school building. They charged her with “aggravated assault upon a public servant”. The minor incident then became a major felony by local officials and school administrators arbitrarily applying the Texas Criminal Code.
The child was tried in a court of law by a judge, who applied adult standards equivalent to that of an assault of a prison inmate upon a guard. ShaQuanda Cotton was incarcerated in the Texas Youth Commission (TYC) lockup facilities, hundreds of miles from home and family.
If she was a “good girl”, she could go home in 9 months. If she received any prison infractions, her stay could be extended up to her 21st birthday. As a prerequisite to gaining her freedom, little Ms. Cotton must confess and show remorse for the crime of assaulting a “public servant”- a dubious and concocted offense. Otherwise, she would not be released. In fact, her nine-month stay was extended, because of a TYC disciplinary report for the offense of “possession of contraband”, to wit an extra pair of socks.
The Texas legislature was so appalled at the case of ShaQuanda Cotton that the teenager was immediately released. She and hundreds of other incarcerated teens were released immediately because their original sentences had been arbitrarily extended.
It seems ironic that, during the Texas legislature’s investigation into the children sexual abuse scandal by TYC prison officials, district attorneys around the state fought vigorously against the mass release of these youth. And, small rural Texas prison towns who, otherwise would not exist except for these lockup facilities, protested depopulating the youth prison system. To them, it would mean the loss of jobs- but, to us, it would be jobs that depended on the continued rate of incarceration of our children.
Texas Governor Rick Perry has seen fit to shut down two or three of these facilities as a result of trying to reform the Texas Youth Commission. And, many Texas counties are beginning to look at keeping their own youth offenders and working at finding an in-house solution to juvenile delinquencies, rather than send the kids off to these scandalized facilities.
But the statistics speak for themselves. More black youth are being sent to prison straight out of the school system- a practice condoned by the office of many district attorneys and courtroom benches.
The case of the Jena Six should never have been prosecuted as a criminal offense, but handled as a school disciplinary matter, in context of the overall tense racial climate. Only as last resort does a public school disciplinary action warrant being processed through the criminal justice system. It appears that teachers and administrators are using the punitive concept of “Zero Tolerance” to comport youth behavior and language to server forms of social control. It is a bully weapon against minority children and their parents.
The only way to correct the egregious injustice in Jena, Louisiana would be:
1. CEASE PROSECUTION OF ALL JENA SIX YOUTH
2. DROP ALL THE CHARGES
3. PARDON Mychal Bell
4. REFORM SCHOOL POLICIES ON DISCIPLINE