The School to Prison Pipeline and #AlfredOlango

I just got home, and I can finally let the tears come if they need to.

This morning, I read about the killing of Alfred Olango, a man who apparently suffered from epilepsy. His sister called 911, and he was shot by the police.

This afternoon, a school safety agent, a member of the NYPD, arrived at my classroom. One of my students was throwing markers, pencils, glue sticks and scissors around the room. It was a safety hazard, and so following school protocol we called the safety agent. She arrived at our door calmly. She wears a blue uniform and a badge, but does not carry a gun.

The parallels between the treatment of my black students and my black neighbors in the larger world makes me sick to my stomach. Alfred Olango needed help. He got the police. My student needed help. He got the police.

We live in a society that is sick. We live in a society that has no way to care for people in crisis, and so we rely on people with badges, handcuffs, and insufficient mental health training.

I have nothing against school safety agents. In many schools they are some of the only people of color, and from the same communities as students. But I don’t want police to enter my classroom ever again unless it’s career day or a safety presentation.

The school-to-prison pipeline is not just a catchy social justice theory. It’s real, it’s scary, and it’s doing harm daily.

Today I cry for Alfred Olango and a system that doesn't value his life or the lives of my students. Tomorrow I talk to my principal and figure out a way to keep my students safe without calling the police.


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