On October 26, 2016, the League of Women Voters in collaboration with the Southern Poverty Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Coffee Party, and the "Race and Reconciliation" program of the Department of Social Work at the University of West Florida hosted its sixth program on the School-to-Prison Pipeline. The focus of the sixth program was the novel idea that prison is No Place For A Child.
The No Place For A Child coalition consists of the Southern Poverty Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, the Anti-Defamation League, Escambia Youth Justice Coalition, the Public Interest Law section of the Florida Bar, the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, the National Council of Jewish Women, The Children's Campaign, the Project on Accountable Justice, the James Madison Institute, the Campaign for Youth Justice, Florida's Children First, R Street, the Florida Juvenile Justice Association, the Florida Council of Churches, the Florida PTA, the Jacksonville Juvenile Justice Coalition, and Families of Youth Incarcerated.
The program started with an excellent 30+ minute documentary on the deliberate resegregation of St. Petersburg's Pinellas County School District schools. As a result of the school board's decision to end integration through busing and not transferring dollars with the students to now predominantly Black schools, the school district created a school district bifurcated by race and class. Essentially, Black children in the school district lost a decade's worth of schooling due to hiring uncertified teachers, providing inadequate resources, and amping up arrests of Black children for non-violent offenses. Eventually, organized parents were able to breakthrough the complete indifference of the school board to the effects of its earlier decision.
The documentary was part 3 of a 5-part series put together by executive producers Norman Lear, Shonda Rhimes, and Common (Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr.). The five-part series is shown on the Epix cable channel. The following link is for the trailer on Pinellas County School District. The excellent Democracy Now! website has a 19-minute interview with the creators and clips from various episodes.
Previous CJ's Street Report blog reports have covered the five School-to-Prison Pipeline events. The blog for January 29, 2016, summarized the previous three events. The December 4, 2015, blog covered the Paper Tigers movie. The April 22, 2016, blog covered the response to the series by the Escambia County School District. You can find the previous blog articles here: 02 SEPT 2015 27 OCT 2015 04 DEC 2015 29 JAN 2016 22 APR 2016.
Ms. Kelley RICHARDS, Public Defender for First Judicial Circuit, has 32 years of experience in criminal defense. Licensed to practice in Texas and Florida, Richards earned her JD from South Texas College of Law.
Mr. Scott MCCOY, Senior Policy Counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center in Florida. McCoy works out of the Tallahassee office. McCoy specializes in criminal justice reform, juvenile justice reform, children's rights, and LGBT rights. McCoy earned his JD from the Cardozo Law School and has an MA in International Affairs from George Washington University.
Ms. Deborah BRODSKY is the founding director of the Project on Accountable Justice (PAJ) at Florida State University. The PAJ is a collaboration of FSU, Baylor University, St. Petersburg College, and Tallahassee Community College. The PAJ was launched in October 2012 and is dedicated to producing scholarly research to advance public safety. Previously, Brodsky worked 13 years at Florida Tax Watch, a fiscally conservative think tank; was the chief of staff and director of both the Center for Smart Justice and the Center for Educational Performance and Accountability. Brodsky worked for the Florida legislature between 1991 and 1998.
Dr. Amir WHITAKER holds five academic degrees, including a PhD in Educational Psychology from the University of Southern California and JD from the University of Miami. Despite being a product of the juvenile justice system, he has held teaching certifications in Florida, California, and New Jersey. He recently published his autobiography, The KnuckleHead's Guide to Escaping the Trap. His autobiography provides a first-hand account of the devastating effects of mass incarceration and the School-to-Prison Pipeline.
Reverend Jeremy GRAHAM is from New Orleans and was raised in a very religious two-parent home. Graham's dad was the pastor of a small Pentescostal Church. Expelled from both high school and alternative school at age 16, Graham turned to selling drugs. He eventually turned his life around with the help of Pastor Lionel Traylor. In 2010, he graduated from Hinds Community College and now heads a team of life insurance agents in southern Mississippi.
Mr. Jamir PATTERSON is a product of the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems.
UPDATED DATA ON INCARCERATION IN ESCAMBIA COUNTY
An "Issue Commentary" from the Tallahassee-based, free-market advocacy group, The James Madison Insitutute, noted that "Florida prosecutors have virtually unfettered discretion to decide which children to try as adults." While Florida law authorizes a judicial hearing, prosecutors get around that obstacle by "direct filing" complaints. In fact, "more than 98 percent of children tried as adults are 'direct filed'" which means there is "no hearing, due process, oversight or input from a judge." In 2013-2014, Florida transferred more than 1,300 children to adult court, making Florida "the highest number of adult transfers" in the country. In the last five years, Florida has transferred more than 10,000 children to adult courts.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which has an ongoing investigation of the Escambia County School District, provided updated statistics on juvenile arrests which are integral to the School-to-Prison Pipeline. Superintendent Malcolm THOMAS has refused to meet with the SPLC to discuss the SPLC's findings and recommendations.
The SPLC reported that while Florida leads the nation in student arrests, Escambia County arrests more students for disorderly conduct than 20 combined counties in the Panhandle (see slide below). The SPLC reported that "Escambia's school arrest rate is more than twice the Florida state average." And, three ECSD schools--Warrington Middle School, Pine Forest High School, and Escambia High School--are among the top 25 schools for arrests of juveniles.
Warrington Middle School is Number 6 in the state. Shockingly, the SPLC found that despite "having fewer than 700 students, Warrington Middle arrested the same number of students for disorderly conduct as Miami-Dade County Public Schools, a district with 350,000+ students. A student at Warrington Middle is over 500 times as likely to be arrested for disorderly conduct as a student in Miami."
Pine Forest High School is Number 15 in Florida. During the 2014-2015 school year, Pine Forest "arrested more students...than the entire Santa Rosa County School District. Pine Forest High has 1,706 students while Santa Rosa has 26,738. 100% of disorderly conduct arrests at Pine Forest High were of black students who only comprise 34% of the school."
Escambia High School is Number 25. During the 2014-2015 school year, Escambia High "arrested more students...than the entire Okaloosa County School District. Escambia High has 1,749 students compared to Okaloosa's 30,000+ students." Black students, around 46% of the student body, accounted for 10 of 11 disorderly conduct charges.
Camelot Academy also showed up on the SPLC's radar. The SPLC reported that Camelot's arrest rate is "20 times higher than the state average." The SPLC's research found that "Less than 7 students are arrested per 1,000 throughout Florida. At Camelot, 140 students are arrested per 1,000. Disorderly conduct is the most common arrest."
Camelot Academy, according to CJ's Street Report research, is owned by a Wall Street private equity firm, the Riverside Company. Previously, it had been owned by the Charterhouse Group, another private equity firm. According to the contract signed between the Escambia County School District and Camelot Schools of Florida (previously with "of Pennsylvania"), the school district pays Camelot Schools $1,847,330 per year, or, $9,236.65 per student. Bear in mind, the Escambia County School District, according to a Pensacola News Journal article, spends only $7,178 per student. The difference between what the school district spends per student ($7,178) and what it pays Camelot Schools per student ($9,236) is $2,158 per student. The school district pays the $1.847 million per year, no matter how students are sent to Camelot. But, Camelot can take up to 240 students per year. This represents a potential profit to Camelot Schools of $517,920 per year, on top of its $167,939 "management fee." And, because Camelot Schools is owned by a private equity fund, how much it actually spends per student per year is a corporate secret. But, you could basically bet your mortgage that Camelot Academy's spending per student is below $7,178 per student, probably substantially below.
SCHOOL-TO-PRISON PIPELINE PRESENTATIONS
Dr. Paula MONTGOMERY, League of Women Voters
Mr. Ray HUDKINS, founder of Coffee Party, Pensacola reads Mayor Ashton's Proclamation
Ms. Keyontay HUMPHRIES, ACLU, introduction to Divided America documentary
Ms. HUMPHRIES, no middle school in District 3 in future
Ms. Lisa NELLESSEN-LARA, executive editor, Pensacola News Journal introduces panel participants
Ms. Kelley RICHARDS, Public Defender
Ms. Deborah BRODSKY, Project on Accountable Justice, FSU
Reverend Jeremy GRAHAM
Mr. Scott MCCOY, SPLC, Tallahassee office
Dr. Amir WHITAKER, SPLC, civil rights attorney
Mr. Jamir PATTERSON
Part 1, Questions and Answers
Part 2, Questions and Answers