Panelists discussed police influence and brutality inside and outside of classrooms at “Hands RaisED: Policing in the Classroom and on the Streets” on Thursday evening. The event, hosted by USC’s Academic Culture Assembly in cooperation with the USC Black Student Assembly, is part of the ACA’s EdMonth.
EdMonth is a month long student-led program dedicated to educating and raising awareness among USC students about the state of education within the United States. EdMonth hopes to bridge the Los Angeles and USC communities and prioritize marginalized students by giving them a platform to face educational inequality directly.
Natalie Nguyen, a senior majoring in chemical engineering, coordinated the event and said that the nationwide debate over police tactics in minority communities influenced EdMonth’s decision to focus on educational justice this year.
“The purpose of this event is in order to discuss the intersection between police brutality and the school-to-prison pipeline and also build community,” Nguyen said.
The panel featured David Turner, a representative from the Social Justice Learning Institute; Tauheedah Shakur, a former Los Angeles Unified School District student and organizer; Shantel Vachani, a professor at the Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work and an education attorney; and Preston Fregia, the unity chair of the BSA.
Vachani began the discussion by defining the school-to-prison pipeline and through her experience as an education attorney, how students are being pushed out by the educational system into another system because of disabilities they have induced by mental trauma experienced within their environment.
“When a young person acts out because they have an underlying disability or manifestation, at that same time they might have rights in the educational setting,” Vachani said.
Fregia expressed his own personal stance on race, racism and police brutality.
“When asked a question of how do cases of police brutality outside the classroom affects students of color I answer with: The anger stems from the fact that students of color have to live inside of the illusions of another man’s reality,” Fregia said.
Tauheedah Shakur also shared her own experience with racism and the school-to-prison pipeline during her school years at Crenshaw High School.
“My peers were treated like they were criminals while they’re in school. Now this affects a lot of people of color. TV shows us that we are nothing but thugs and killers. If TV shows us that, and our homes aren’t good, and school isn’t good, what is supposed to be good? What is supposed to be normal?” Shakur said.
Turner took on a more historical perspective. He discussed how the school-to-prison pipeline came into existence. He explained how the phenomena occurred as a response by the government in order to try and deal with the black power movement.
“The foundations for what we know as the school-to-prison pipeline were laid by the black power movement,” Turner said.
The panel addressed specific issues within LAUSD. The broader implication, as discussed by the panelist, is that these issues can be seen throughout the country and are not singularly a county or state issue. The understanding is that these issues of concentrated disadvantage exist by design and need to be recognized. Subsequently, more needs to be done in order to fix the situation.
“If we are really going to advance this idea educational justice, then we have to be really explicit about race,” Turner said.