Injustice within public school walls is not a new phenomenon. Historically, segregated schools in the Jim Crow South remain the prevailing example of severe educational unfairness. This authorized discrimination left many black students in overcrowded and lackluster schools, with minimal resources. If you look around America today, however, similar educational injustices can be easily seen. Recently, there seems to be a nation-wide systemic denial of the simple right to accessible and adequate education (without discrimination) in American Public schools. While civil rights are certainly still a law-abiding concept, if you ask many top educational officials, I am unsure if they would agree.
The most notorious example of civil injustice with public schools is the closings in Chicago and Philadelphia that will mainly affect minority students. In Chicago, over 50 schools will be closing. In Philadelphia, over 23 schools will be closing. Sadly, minority students will now be jammed packed into classes in schools outside of their immediate community and denied the personal attention essential to an adequate K-12 education. The saddening part is that even with substantial protesting and public hearings against, both cities simply ignored their constituents. But these unjust school closings are not news. Even more alarming is end goal of charter schools as primary education centers which ultimately leads to other injustices as well. Consider the targeted expulsions in Chicago’s charter schools.
Earlier this month, Jamie Adams, a freshman student, charged Chicago charter schools with “pushing out students who do not test as well.” Activists have cited that the Noble Network of Charter Schools expels 8.4 per every 1,000 students, and that Perspective Charter Schools expel 17.5 per 1,000 students. This pales in comparison to the Chicago Public School’s expulsion rate of 1.1 per 1,000. With the centralization of charter schools as primary centers for education comes the injustices natural with selective schools that rely on rankings and competition. Testing determines the funding and ultimate success of a charter school. Students who do not test as well—many being colored—present a barrier to this success. Unfortunately, instead of focusing on students’ education and helping improve test scores, both Noble and Perspective Charter schools appear to have simply been expelling these students. This marginalization has left many well-deserving students victimized and displaced in other underperforming schools…many of which will most likely be closing. These expulsions have sent a clear message that students’ civil rights are simply revocable and disposable.
The Horizon Academy’s (recently repealed) ban on black natural hairstyles demonstrates another civil injustice in our nation’s schools. Just the other week the school made adjustments to their dress code noting a ban on “afro-puffs, and small braided twist, with or without rubber bands.” This retrogressionist nonsense sends yet another message that blackness- or signifiers of blackness- is inappropriate or unruly. It teaches young black children that their natural beauty is not adequate, and that true (appropriate) beauty only comes with conformity- a.k.a. look as white as possible. More explicitly, this ban says “round up your chemical, girls, and go ahead and get your relaxer; blackness and basic civil rights are not allowed in the racist Horizon Academy!” While schools do have hold the right to regulate dress codes, Horizon Academy’s targeting of black natural hair styles represent a gross abuse of power and injustice to the students it affects.
Some claim that civil rights issues are but a memory in the past. Some maintain that civil rights issues died with the civil rights movement. These silly and misinformed notions ignore substantial inequalities still rampant in our supposed “egalitarian” society. As demonstrated, Mayors and/or major educational leaders can simply shut down schools and send your children to discriminatory charter schools with outlandish and racist dress code policies. The above discussion represents just three examples of civil rights attacks in the past two months; attacks that have left many minority students marginalized and without adequate education. While some more economically privileged student can simply attend a private or more successful public schools, what other options do other less privileged students have? Though three separate examples, collectively these instances represents a systemic civil rights issue within the entire American educational system which requires subsequent civil rights advocacy.