Monday Reading List: Complications in School Discipline, Immigration, and Symbolic Victories

Evie Blad at Education Week has a report on a new program in Atlanta, which trains law enforcement officials to work in schools:

The district's new police department is the first step in Atlanta's efforts to confront a challenge many urban school systems have not easily tackled: concerns that putting police in schools undermines efforts to create a safe and supportive learning environment, and that their presence too often leads schools to treat routine student misbehavior in a criminal manner. While Atlanta's plans have already brought big changes to how policing looks in the school system, they don't adhere to what some national civil rights groups have called for, which is much tighter restrictions on officers' interactions with students or removing them from schools all together. Mediating conflicts and mentoring students are better left to school counselors and other school staff without arresting authority, those groups argue.

Blad doesn't soft-pedal the challenges of navigating the relationships between schools and law enforcement, in a school district whose student population is close to 80% Black. It's clear that the current paradigm for enforcing discipline in schools cannot hold, so with more schools trying to implement restorative justice, it's important to understand how school discipline works in practice.

Dylan Peers McCoy, writing in Chalkbeat, looks at the climate in an Indiana school for immigrant students:

Alejandra’s story is stunning, but she’s not the only student at the newcomer school who saw a relative murdered before fleeing her home country, according to staff. She’s not the only student who was involved with gangs before fleeing Central America. She’s not the only student who didn’t finish her elementary education. These are the everyday challenges that students and staff at the newcomer school must grapple with: Many students have been through unimaginable trauma, are far behind academically and are just beginning to learn English.

Students like Alejandra face challenges that are almost impossible to fathom. Call me an optimist, but I hope that America can be the kind of place where we can help Alejandra survive and thrive.

Noah Remnick is in The New York Times, covering Yale's decision to finally finally finally remove the name of an infamous white supremacist from one of the school's residences, the former "John C. Calhoun College":

Calhoun, the nation’s seventh vice president, attended Yale and was its valedictorian. The name of the college incited controversy almost as soon as it opened in 1933. Many black students staged demonstrations and referred to the college, which was decorated with depictions of slaves carrying bales of cotton, as the “Calhoun Plantation.” Opposition may have peaked in 2015, after the massacre of nine worshipers at a black church in Charleston. The killings, by an avowed white supremacist, prompted protests that led to the removal of the Confederate battle flag outside the South Carolina Statehouse and elsewhere. Yale was seized that fall by a series of demonstrations from students, faculty and alumni who objected to the Calhoun name, as well as to what they saw as a larger climate of racial inequality on campus.

As a Yale graduate, I wish this had happened sooner, though I'm glad it happened at all. The timing is important to consider here: by 1933, when the residence was named after Calhoun, the Civil War had been over for almost 70 years. It's a good reminder that terrible, old, prejudiced ideas have a tendency to resurrect themselves. It's also worth noting that removing Calhoun's name was one specific objective of a sustained, student-led movement. Symbolic victories are important.

Meanwhile, in France:

“No more playtime,” said the French presidential candidate Marine le Pen in a speech in December, as she called for an end to free education for the children of undocumented immigrants. “I tell them: If you come to our country, don’t expect to be taken care of.” Le Pen, who leads the far-right National Front party, could reach the final round of the French presidential election this May, and has routinely decried the multiculturalism—described with the nefarious term communautarisme, or “communitarism”—that she and her supporters believe is undermining the French social fabric. It’s no surprise that, in an electoral climate increasingly defined around perceived threats to French identity, Le Pen chose to insulate schools from migrants, whom she has demonized throughout her political career.

That's Karina Piser, writing in The Atlantic. Gosh, where have I heard language like le Pen's before? Some political leaders around the world want to construe our current era as an epic clash of cultures against one another. I reject that idea. I think it's a test of our fortitude, will, and ability to live together. Have a great week!