On Teachers Calling Kid “Future Criminals” and the School-to-Prison Pipeline

by Latoya Peterson

A first grade teacher in Paterson, New Jersey was recently put on administrative leave after she took to the internet to vent her frustrations about work. According to NBC New York, the teacher was suspended for allegedly making Facebook comments that her six-year-old students are “future criminals” and referring to herself as a “warden,” according to school officials.”

Much of the handwringing over at Jezebel concerned the fate of the poor, poor teacher who probably just had a bad day. At Jezebel, Margaret Hartmann concludes her piece by saying:

It’s horrible to hear about an adult disrespecting the children in her care, but it also casts a bad light on teachers, who for the most part, got into the profession because they want to help children succeed. But that’s not news — that’s their job, and they do it every single day.

Are teachers definitely our undersung heroes? Yes.  Do they often work long hours at thankless tasks in order to make their children’s lives better?  Oh yes.

But do all teachers treat all children the same? No, no, no.

My radar pinged when I heard the term criminals employed, so I checked the demographics of Paterson.  And my suspicions were borne out.  According to Neighborhood Scout:

Paterson is a blue-collar town, with 35.4% of people working in blue-collar occupations, while the average in America is just 24.7%. Overall, Paterson is a city of sales and office workers, service providers, and production and manufacturing workers. There are especially a lot of people living in Paterson who work in office and administrative support jobs (18.20%), sales jobs (9.45%), and building maintenance and grounds keeping (6.25%).

The population of Paterson has a very low overall level of education: only 8.19% of people over 25 hold a 4-year college degree or higher.

The per capita income in Paterson in 2000 was $13,257, which is low income relative to New Jersey and the nation. This equates to an annual income of $53,028 for a family of four.

Paterson is an extremely ethnically-diverse city. The people who call Paterson home come from a variety of different races and ancestries. People of Hispanic or Latino origin are the most prevalent group in Paterson, accounting for 50.17% of the city’s residents (people of Hispanic or Latino origin can be of any race). The most prevalent race in Paterson is White, followed by Asian. Important ancestries of people in Paterson include Italian and Jamaican.

Paterson also has a high percentage of its population that was born in another country: 32.79%.

The most common language spoken in Paterson is Spanish. Some people also speak English.

But that’s just a coincidence, right?

Maybe this was just a bad day for this teacher – but the problem is that bad days in public serving positions can have huge, lingering consequences.  And from what other administrators and school advocates are saying, the suspended teacher wasn’t the only one.

Read the entire article here.

About Suspensionstories

Suspension Stories is a youth-led participatory action research project to understand the school to prison pipeline. This initiative is the result of a collaboration between the Rogers Park Young Women's Action Team (www.rogersparkywat.org) and Project NIA (www.project-nia.org).
This entry was posted in Criminalizing Youth, Harsh Disciplinary Policies, School Pushout, School to Prison Pipeline. Bookmark the permalink.

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