Category Archives: Exclusionary discipline measures

(Not) waiting for superman

􏰂􏰃􏰄􏰅􏰆􏰇􏰆􏰈􏰉􏰊􏰋􏰅􏰉􏰄􏰉􏰌􏰅􏰇􏰈􏰍􏰎􏰉􏰏􏰐􏰎􏰐􏰅􏰃􏰑􏰉􏰒􏰓􏰍􏰋􏰋􏰔􏰇􏰆􏰈􏰕􏰉􏰖􏰅􏰗􏰃􏰘􏰉􏰙􏰋􏰆􏰊􏰔􏰇􏰓􏰎􏰕􏰉􏰄􏰆􏰘􏰉􏰙􏰍􏰇􏰔􏰘􏰅􏰃􏰆􏰚􏰛􏰉􏰜􏰃􏰔􏰔􏰝􏰌􏰃􏰇􏰆􏰈 􏰖􏰐􏰎􏰍􏰋􏰅􏰞􏰛􏰟􏰑􏰉􏰠􏰃􏰡􏰃􏰓􏰓􏰄􏰢􏰜􏰇􏰆􏰎􏰍􏰅􏰋􏰣􏰉􏰄􏰆􏰘􏰉􏰤􏰄􏰓􏰥􏰇􏰃􏰢􏰦􏰇􏰅􏰥From September 24th, 2016 in response to:

Dumas, M. J. (2013). “Waiting for Superman” to save black people: racial representation and the official antiracism of neoliberal school reform. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education34(4), 531–547.

􏰂􏰃􏰄􏰅􏰆􏰇􏰆􏰈􏰉􏰊􏰋􏰅􏰉􏰄􏰉􏰌􏰅􏰇􏰈􏰍􏰎􏰉􏰏􏰐􏰎􏰐􏰅􏰃􏰑􏰉􏰒􏰓􏰍􏰋􏰋􏰔􏰇􏰆􏰈􏰕􏰉􏰖􏰅􏰗􏰃􏰘􏰉􏰙􏰋􏰆􏰊􏰔􏰇􏰓􏰎􏰕􏰉􏰄􏰆􏰘􏰉􏰙􏰍􏰇􏰔􏰘􏰅􏰃􏰆􏰚􏰛􏰉􏰜􏰃􏰔􏰔􏰝􏰌􏰃􏰇􏰆􏰈————————————- 􏰖􏰐􏰎􏰍􏰋􏰅􏰞􏰛􏰟􏰑􏰉􏰠􏰃􏰡􏰃􏰓􏰓􏰄􏰢􏰜􏰇􏰆􏰎􏰍􏰅􏰋􏰣􏰉􏰄􏰆􏰘􏰉􏰤􏰄􏰓􏰥􏰇􏰃􏰢􏰦􏰇􏰅
Money has taken over and has moral authority over our lives.Money has been pushed past the gate into a field of ‘objectivity, meritocracy, colorblindness, race neutrality, and equal opportunity’[1].

Superman is only coming for those whom he deems worthy of saving, just take the word of Geoffrey Canada if you don’t believe me.

You say ‘saving’ means keeping your mouth shut, means walking in a line with hands clasped behind you, means turning your back on your community-because all they want to do is hold you back, and you know they made terrible choices with their lives, so you need to break with all you know and hold dear, and keep that mouth shut, unless you are called upon to regurgitate an answer, no one really cares what you think, because free thinking leads to trouble, might make you think you want to go home and learn more about your family, but STOP-you are not white, you do not have class privilege, you do not have knowledge-the way the system defines it.

So you need to do as the system says, if you want to move past being blamed for your place in the world, if you want to be seen as advocating for a place higher up on the ladder, even if a broke back and cut out tongue is the price you pay.

The more ‘broken’ your home life, the more you are of value to those who seek to ‘affirm their own humanity through your suffering’[2].

You are a signifier, you are not of flesh and blood anymore, because the market wills it to be so.

No longer bought and sold, but money dictates your future nevertheless, money that you never get to touch.

You say ‘structural inequities’ and the market says you’re not trying hard enough.

You say ‘systemic racism’ and the market says grow a pair.

You speak up, speak out and kneel down

Because you are still human and the market will not separate you from your humanity, will not separate you from the love of community and will not separate you from the beauty you are.


Dumas, M. J. (2013). “Waiting for Superman” to save black people: racial representation and the official antiracism of neoliberal school reform. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 34(4), 531–547.

Yosso *, T. J. (2005). Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth. Race Ethnicity and Education, 8(1), 69–91.


[1] (Yosso *, 2005)

[2] (Dumas, 2013)

􏰂􏰃􏰄􏰅􏰆􏰇􏰆􏰈􏰉􏰊􏰋􏰅􏰉􏰄􏰉􏰌􏰅􏰇􏰈􏰍􏰎􏰉􏰏􏰐􏰎􏰐􏰅􏰃􏰑􏰉􏰒􏰓􏰍􏰋􏰋􏰔􏰇􏰆􏰈􏰕􏰉􏰖􏰅􏰗􏰃􏰘􏰉􏰙􏰋􏰆􏰊􏰔􏰇􏰓􏰎􏰕􏰉􏰄􏰆􏰘􏰉􏰙􏰍􏰇􏰔􏰘􏰅􏰃􏰆􏰚􏰛􏰉􏰜􏰃􏰔􏰔􏰝􏰌􏰃􏰇􏰆􏰈 􏰖􏰐􏰎􏰍􏰋􏰅􏰞􏰛􏰟􏰑􏰉􏰠􏰃􏰡􏰃􏰓􏰓􏰄􏰢􏰜􏰇􏰆􏰎􏰍􏰅􏰋􏰣􏰉􏰄􏰆􏰘􏰉􏰤􏰄􏰓􏰥􏰇􏰃􏰢􏰦􏰇􏰅􏰥

Time for ‘no excuses’ charter school violence to end

Galtung (1969) defines violence in part as that which increases the distance between the potential and the actual. ‘No excuses’ charter schools treat children as behavioural pawns and do nothing to make the world a more humane place. Eva Moskowitz, CEO of Success Academy Charter Schools, pulls in a salary of over half a million dollars a year to run Success Academies all over New York. Her salary comes from a mix of private and public funds but there is no public accountability. A couple of days ago PBS Newshour ran a section on kindergarten suspensions, ostensibly at Success Academy schools throughout New York. A zero tolerance policy sees five-year-old children automatically suspended for swearing, and Moskowitz does not see this as problematic. Suspensions may also come from calling out the right answer twice without being called on and getting out of your seat without permission. My last couple of blog posts discussed ‘zero tolerance’ policies at ‘no excuses’ charter schools. The first time I read about discipline measures put on children in these schools I was physically nauseous. This Newshour segment makes me angry more than anything else. Test scores are all that SAs are about, and clean clothes are on hand for when children pee in their pants during test prep. Suspending very young children for trivial matters goes against anything any sane person would want for their children, and others’. All a five-year-old child learns from being suspended for getting out of his or her chair is fear of authority. Fear is no way to build a classroom climate that respects all in the room. ‘No excuses’ charter schools make it an offence to talk unless called upon. This is potentially the most egregious element of a ‘no excuses’ policy, but it’s up against stiff competition. We all learn best in a social environment. We are social beings and need to talk about our world, about our opinions, about trivial matters, and more. It angers me that I even need to spell that out. Fear breeds resentment, and fear of suspension for simply being a child, and being a human being, is an awful lesson to teach our children. Moskowitz says that suspending children early means less suspensions in later years. If Success Academies really were about the children, their suspension rate would not be three to four times higher than in public schools. It is incomprehensible that Eva Moskowitz sees a ‘zero tolerance’ approach as fair and equitable. It goes against all we know about child development. I worry that these five-year-old children will either turn into automatons by following rules that build neither empathy nor compassion; or become so resentful of a system that is constantly pulling them down, that violence will ensue. Violence is already being carried out against all children in ‘no excuses’ charter schools. It is time for the violence against young children to end.

Galtung, J. (1969). Violence, Peace, and Peace Research. Journal of Peace Research, 6(3), 167–191.

The presumption of innocence pt 2

Lawsuits have been filed with the Office of Civil Rights[1] regarding racial disparities in school suspensions but the tricky part is explicitly identifying racial abuse. It is no secret that implicit bias haunts many classrooms. As already mentioned, children of color are singled out for discriminatory punishment, yet a charge of violating that child’s rights is not always easy to prove. In 2014 the ex-Superintendent of Schools in Minneapolis placed a moratorium on suspensions of children in Pre-K, K and First grade when it was found that there was a dramatic increase in suspensions for this age group. Ex-Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson also sought to implement an initiative that would have seen potential suspensions of African American, Hispanic, and Native American children for non-violent offences brought before her office for review. This came after data showed that black students in Minneapolis Public Schools were sent home at a rate ten times that of white students. Johnson commented that far too often school officials are suspending students of color for a behavior that doesn’t lead to suspensions for white students. She states that the inequities exist not in student behavior, but in adult response. Michelle Alexander (2012) states that the genius of the current caste system is that it appears to be voluntary. Personal choices are to blame for personal downfall, but “never mind that white children on the other side of town who made precisely the same choices-often for less compelling reasons-are in fact going to college”. Less than two months after defending her decision in the Washington Post, Johnson abruptly resigned from her role as MPS Superintendent, a job she held for over four years. Despite what appears to be overwhelming evidence of racial bias, and despite the OCR examining disproportionate discipline policies in the MPS, people opposed to this initiative claimed that the only way to reduce racial disparities would be if school officials were more lenient towards students of color and tougher on white students. They were able to sidestep the part where white students already stay in school for offences that would see students of color sent home. Opponents also said that this policy would be unfair to whites, sidestepping the fact that systemic racism leads to incredibly unfair policies for children of color. The needs of white people take precedence over the needs of those less advantaged, and whiteness is seen as the ‘normal and neutral measure by which all other groups are defined and compared’ (Horsford & Grosland, 2013). Bernadeia Johnson sought dialogue regarding disparate disciplinary measures, not accusations of guilt. Without dialogue there can be no understanding of individual student need: without dialogue too many children are viewed simply through an essentialist lens. Critical race theory decries essentialism and the belief that all people of a particular group think and act in the same way (Ladson-Billings, 2013). Johnson sought to upend education policy that simply maintained the (racist) status quo. For this she herself was unfairly disciplined, with blame for her departure apportioned to her inability to raise test scores, rather than opposition to a push for racial equity in Minneapolis Public Schools.

Policy shortfall in regards to addressing racial inequities in schools is sorely depicted in the examples discussed here. It is disturbing that attempts to curb suspensions of our youngest children are met with resistance, and disturbing that attempts to balance the playing field when it comes to suspensions by race are also met by resistance. To call opponents of these policies racist would most likely offend their sensibilities. In a ‘post-racial’, ‘colorblind’ era the worst thing anyone can be called is racist, yet racist abuses continue. If the reasons for disparate exclusions from school (inclusions in prison) “can be blamed on their culture, poor work ethic, or even their families, then society is absolved of responsibility to do anything about their condition”(Alexander, 2012). It doesn’t seem to matter that the school-to-prison pipeline is explicitly addressed (Broome in Louisiana); nor that it’s pointed out that children of color are punished for behavior that white children are not punished for (Johnson in Minneapolis). Schools and districts are not held accountable for exclusionary policies that target children of color. In 2014 California became the first state in the nation to ban the use of suspensions and expulsions for “willful defiance” for children in K-third grade. Prior to the signing of this bill, 10,000 children in these grade levels alone were issued with suspensions for this particularly loose charge. It was hoped the bill would reach into the higher grades but Jerry Brown stated that he could not support “limiting the authority of local school leaders”. Just as Loretta Lynch says the US government should not require police to report fatal shootings of civilians, citing federal overreach, the needs of local school (police) officials to exclude and punish takes precedence over accountability measures that may engender racial justice.

The school-to-prison pipeline is real, and with suspensions and expulsions of our youngest children on the rise we have a moral and ethical imperative to stop this in its tracks. The 6th annual National Week of Action Against School Pushout is taking place right now-October 3 to 11, and in the Bay Area an “Education not Incarceration” convening happened for the first time on Monday the 5th of October. Mobilizing of this kind “highlights the need for regional and multi-issue approach to ending the school-to-prison pipeline”. We have strength in numbers, and we have strength in recognizing the need for the rehumanization of education through decolonizing pedagogy that sees all children presumed innocent, and that sees all children in the brightest light possible.

[1] More than 580 complaints from parents, students or other individuals were received in fiscal year 2013-2014. These complaints regarded possible civil rights violations involving school discipline systems.

Coleman Advocates:

Dignity in Schools:


Alexander, M. (2012). The new Jim Crow: mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness. New York, N.Y.; Jackson, Tenn.: New Press ; Distributed by Perseus Distribution.

Horsford, S. D., & Grosland, T. J. (2013). Badges of Inferiority: The Racialization of Achievement in U.S. Education. In M. Lynn & A. D. Dixson (Eds.), Handbook of Critical Race Theory in Education. Routledge.

Ladson-Billings, G. (2013). Critical Race Theory-What It Is Not! In M. Lynn & A. D. Dixson (Eds.), Handbook of Critical Race Theory in Education. New York, N.Y.: Routledge.

The presumption of innocence pt 1

“The presumption of innocence is the only civilized presumption”(Gillen, 2014). It is this presumption that is expected to follow a person into the courtroom, and it is for this reason we have courts of law and juries of our peers. Children of color are too often tagged with a brush labeling them as deviant and as troublemakers, before they even walk into the classroom, before the teacher has even set eyes on them. Kindergarten suspensions and expulsions are on the rise in many parts of the US with children of color being at least three times more likely to be suspended for what could often be deemed trivial matters. Louisiana saw 7,400 children in K-3 suspended in 2013-2014 for loose charges like “willful disobedience”, or as Andre Perry says, “being a kid”. A recent bill that would have seen out of school suspensions banned for Louisiana’s youngest children was met with resistance from teachers’ unions and other groups allied with K-12 education. The bill would have seen loose (and subjective) charges such as “willful disobedience” and “intentional disrespect towards teachers and principals” met with loss of privileges, referral to a counselor or social worker, or other in-school interventions. The bill’s sponsor, Sharon Broome, stated she wanted to stop the school-to-prison pipeline; opponents of the bill chose to see it as potential handcuffing, and loss of authority over their right to suspend. The argument put forward by the ‘pro-suspending of young children for non-violent offences camp’ is that some children need to be removed from the classroom so they do not ‘disturb other children’s learning’. It can be easily be argued that exclusionary discipline practices have a stronger impact on the learning of all children in the class than removing the child presenting with disruptive behaviour. Perry asks, “When kindergartens expel black kids what so they learn next?” What all children learn from discriminatory and exclusionary discipline measures is that a child of color will be unfairly treated by the system, no matter how young they are. They will be presumed guilty before even taking a breath in the classroom.

Last year The Washington Post reported that suspensions and expulsions are down in DC charter schools. Suspensions in early childhood, however, rose from 2.4% to 2.9%. A mealy mouthed response from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education recommended ending suspensions of pre-kindergarteners as “young children might not understand why they are being punished and might be acting out in ways within developmental norms”(emphasis added). It is difficult to digest this comment, and difficult to understand why more teeth are not in the game. Exclusionary punishment is meted out without any accountability, or any referral to experts in the field. It can take as little as one suspension to suck a child into the prison pipeline, but this doesn’t deter those so hard of heart they favor punishing kids who barely reach their waist. Most urban charter schools boast of ‘no excuses’ policy so that children can ‘rise above the odds’. The DC suspensions figures didn’t disaggregate for race but a quick glance at around ten DC charter school profiles show that their population is made up almost 100% of children of color, mostly African American. It appears that only black and brown kids need the ‘tough love’ approach. The myth of black inferiority is reproduced in these schools and the perpetuation of this myth is most dangerous and damaging (Horsford & Grosland, 2013). Black and brown bodies are viewed as something to control, rather than being viewed in their full humanity. The ‘no excuses’ brand is modeled on the ‘broken window’ theory of policing, a theory that is blatantly ineffective and that unfairly targets low-income communities of color. What’s more, ‘no excuses’ is an extreme extension of this theory (Goodman, 2013) as many of the behaviors the schools demand are not wrongs in themselves. It is not wrong to talk to a friend, it isn’t wrong to slouch, and it isn’t wrong to gaze into space. Yet charter schools such as KIPP punish children for the most minor of ‘infractions’ such as not following the teacher with his or her eyes. Falling asleep in class garners 10 demerit points, which triggers a detention, missing a detention may lead to a suspension. There is no suggestion of talking to the child to find out why they are so tired in school. ‘No excuses’ charter schools take an ahistorical view of the children in their care. A director of a DC charter school said suspension rates are higher at her school because of the population the school attracts-“kids who have struggled with incarceration, chronic truancy and other problems”. There is no deferral to understanding the child’s home life and to providing support that respects them as a human being. This would require a humanizing pedagogy rather than the colonizing model these schools use. When viewed through a historical lens there is clearly a paternalistic model in play, one that harkens back to the days of slavery. There is no true desire to improve the lives of children of color living in poverty, as profits come from keeping them down. From the youngest grades on children must comply at all times to directives from above (that make little sense for the most part). They have no control over the curriculum and are unable to properly interrogate subject matter. Individual effort is key, no collaborative learning, and often no speaking for long periods of time. If children fail to (respect authority) follow directives, public shaming may follow, such as wearing a school t-shirt inside out to show he or she needs to work on their behavior (if they want to get ahead). These children are nothing more than data points. A non-critical and ahistorical interpretation of educational statistics only serves to oppress students of color further (Horsford & Grosland, 2013). Even if charter schools could prove their methods help children do better on standardized tests, the people running these charter schools do not respect the humanity of each and every one of their students. The one (or two, or three) time/s a five year old is suspended for daydreaming may be all it takes to one day see him or her referred to by number and not by name.


Gillen, J. (2014). Educating for insurgency: the roles of young people in school’s of poverty. Oakland, CA: AK Press.

Goodman, J. F. (2013). Charter Management Organizations and the Regulated Environment: Is It Worth the Price? Educational Researcher, 42(2), 89–96.

Horsford, S. D., & Grosland, T. J. (2013). Badges of Inferiority: The Racialization of Achievement in U.S. Education. In M. Lynn & A. D. Dixson (Eds.), Handbook of Critical Race Theory in Education. Routledge.