In light of recent civic rights disparities in states such as Texas, New York, California and Mississippi, there seems to be a gap between personal values and professional ethics as well as a failure to exercise fairness in decision-making from public administrators. How and why decisions are made for certain people based on race, gender, ethnicity and/or political culture has been an often-discussed topic, especially in education. In thinking about a public administrator’s decision-making, how they respond to the needs of the people and the standard of ethics used when making decision, there are always questions that must be answered.
Recently, I listened to a conversation about the prison-to-school pipeline and learned how public administrators handled certain students in the Meridian, Mississippi School District. In a Department of Justice report, it was revealed that principals and teachers in Meridian, Mississippi schools sent largely black and disabled students “to prison for minor disciplinary programs [such as] dress code violations, flatulence, profanity and disrespect.” These disciplinary practices suggest students who are poor, disabled and vulnerable now inhabit schools that are “zones of abandonment,” that exist beyond the formal rules of school governance and where students “become unknowable with no human rights.”
Yes, lawsuits were filed. However, a bigger question that flooded my mind was, “why apply for the job?”
The Department of Justice should not have to intervene on behalf of the students to ensure their constitutional rights are upheld and they are treated fairly, respected and not exposed to a hostile learning environment.
It’s all so interesting, especially when the expectation is that students go to school, learn, be well-behaved and get good grades. Let us not forget that students are also in a system that often does not benefit their social growth or make them well-rounded individuals, as theory would suggest.
In these times, we should not have incidents like the Meridian, Mississippi School District. I believe public service is not supposed to be self-serving, but to serve the people. Now is the time to go beyond looking at parents and hold all stakeholders accountable.
Submitted by Shirmel Hayden