Last week in Irving, Texas, high school freshman Ahmed Mohamed was arrested for bringing his homemade clock to class. Ahmed, an enthusiastic student devoted to engineering and building his own inventions, was in turn questioned, handcuffed, and taken to a juvenile detention center for making a hoax bomb. Ahmed’s arrest – a clear demonstration of the virulence of anti-blackness and Islamophobia in the US – is also indicative of consequences of the school-to-prison pipeline.
Over the last four decades, suspensions and expulsions in public secondary schools across the US have increased by 40%. Public schools have been flooded with technologies designed for prisons, such as surveillance systems and metal detectors, together with a heavy police presence. Of the approximately 9000 arrests and tickets in the LA school district in the 2011-2012 school year, 93% involved black and Latino students.
This August, the Los Angeles Unified School District took significant steps to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline, affording educators and police officers greater latitude in responding to minor-offenses, such as possession of marijuana or alcohol on school grounds.
In an interview, Annette Fuentes, author of Lockdown High: When the Schoolhouse Becomes a Jailhouse shared her take on zero tolerance and recent reforms.