Criminalized at youth

I had the pleasure of reading a fellow blogger’s post titled “The Plight of the Safe Black Man” and with her many well made points there is one in particular that stands out to me the most, “All too often Black men (boys, girls and women as well) are criminalized. Criminalized at work, in school, in the neighborhood and on the news.”

I see this everyday in my place of employment. I’m a behavioral health worker in an urban school in Philadelphia. The school demographic is primarily Black and Latino students and a small percentage being non Black or Latino. Many of the parents of the Latino students use their children as translators when it comes to interacting with school staff. I watch as staff belittle these students and their families due to a lack of understanding.

I have worked in urban schools before and I saw the same treatment of Black and Brown students in contrast to their non Black peers.

As a behavioral health worker I observe and analyze the treatment, triggers, and behavior of not only my students but any students that I come in contact with. There is a pattern. When Black and brown students misbehave they are left to roam the hallways and rarely is action taken to redirect or encourage the student to turn back to class. In many cases they are deemed a lost cause. This being the case, teachers are giving students the boot at the first sight of a student’s disruption and have little regard if they complete classwork or learn that day.

In a much different scenario non Black or brown students are approached by one and sometimes two teachers at a time. School staff list out the rewards and learning opportunities that children will miss if they do not return to class. The staff use bargaining and whatever it takes to make sure these students properly transition back into their classes. Black and brown students are criminalized in the most shameful ways. I have a class of 11 “behaviorally challenged” boys. The second that a few of them step foot in the school their every step is repeated across walkie talkies with staff being warned of their arrival. They are either bombarded by staff who look for myself and my co-worker to “deal” with the students or completely ignored because no one wants the responsibility.

The treatment that Black and brown students receive shares little similarity to those who are non Black. It sickens me that even from a young age they are criminalized and degraded and given up on. These reactions are not uncommon. These students are taught that they do not belong in general population and sent to ES classrooms or SpEd classrooms. They have little to no engagement with their peers for recess and stay in one class for 90% of their day. They are taught in schools that they are different. Their classrooms are contracted out by companies like mine because no one wants to interact with these children or has the training to do so. They are seen as aggressive and pose a threat to non Black staff who do not possess the social competency to interact with the urban students or their families. The system seems to be a setup for black and brown children.


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