Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline, Second Edition
Edited By Anthony J. Nocella II, Priya Parmar and David Stovall
Chapter Nine: Who Wants to Be Special? Pathologization and the Preparation of Bodies for Prison
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We come to writing and thinking through the tangled inter-relationships between schools, special education, and prisons from two different locations. Deanna has worked as a special education teacher, in a range of settings, for more than ten years and has taught in teacher education programs as well. For more than fifteen years Erica has taught people coming out of prisons and jails, participated in anti-prison movements, and also worked with teachers and people who are studying to become teachers. These experiences moved us to pay close attention to who is captured by “special education” discourses and the impact of these classifications.
Deanna: During my career as a special education teacher I have worked with many young people who were labeled as emotionally disturbed, “mentally retarded,” mentally ill, at-risk, and juvenile offenders. Of these students 90% were African American or Latino, male, and of low socio-economic status. For example, from 1999 to 2003 I worked as a special education teacher in a juvenile detention center in central New York for boys ages 13 to 21 years old. There were twenty-five residents housed there and the residents were split into two teams based on educational records and psychological reports indicating their perceived intellectual functioning and academic abilities. Even though I was a special education teacher ← 145 | 146 → I taught history and health classes to all of the students, not just those on the “lower level” team. I noticed that all my students struggled academically but...