Community News & Voices

What will it take to break the school-to-prison pipeline in Minneapolis?

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The school-to-prison pipeline is front and center in the conversation around education justice. Last week I was able to participate in an event with all eight of the school board candidates solely focused on this issue. Voices for Racial Justice along with Hope Community held the round-robin style conversation which included questions from incarcerated citizens concerned about the school-to-prison pipeline and, more importantly, what the candidates were willing to commit to in order to put it to an end.

There were some hopeful themes that emerged throughout the night: almost all of the candidates supported restorative justice programs, Ira Jourdain and Doug Mann (who didn’t explicitly answer the question) being the only candidates that were unsure regarding their positions. Alarmingly, Mr. Jourdain was the only candidate that expressed uncertainty about the extent of the issue stating that he “wasn’t sure how students interact with police in school other than when there are fights.” While he said that teachers need “racial awareness” he was unable to expand on what that would look like and never mentioned culturally competent curriculum or restorative justice practices.

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Two of the three white men running for the board—Josh Reimnitz and Bob Walzer—have similar takes on what the issues is and how they would remedy it. Thankfully, they both cite white supremacy and systemic racism and foundational to the problem and are in support of changing systems. Mr. Reimnitz’s specialty is policy and he is quick to reference his work revising the policy manual in order to better facilitate accountability. To his credit, Mr. Reimnitz has also demonstrated a commitment to student-centered approaches and allowing the young people to lead. Bob Walzer references his ability to build relationships and his openness to learn as his strengths. Both men talk openly about their need to learn more and to continue on their journey to understand and then unlearn the impact of whiteness on their lives. Doug Mann, the third white male running, consistently deflects questions around equity and returns to the district having inexperienced teachers. And then he spends the rest of his opportunities to speak talking about something entirely unrelated to the issue at hand.

Education is pinnacle in the movement for racial justice.

Most impressively and consistently dedicated to equity is Tracine Asberry. The incumbent in District 6, Ms. Asberry has demonstrated an understanding of the ubiquitous nature of white supremacy as well as the commitment necessary to battle it. Ms. Asberry was precise in naming the issue as about policy as well as worldview and named a number of explicit things that could be implemented right away to further equity and the dismantling of the school-to-prison pipeline. These included fully funding restorative justice and giving the Superintendent directives for implementing equity. Ms. Asberry said, “We need to do this now. No excuses.” Her voting record is evidence of her commitment to these ideals as she was one of two votes against having school resources officers on campuses.

Education is pinnacle in the movement for racial justice. Please join us November 3rd for an all-candidate forum at the Children’s Theatre in order to see for yourself where the candidates stand.

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