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From Education to Incarceration

Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline

Series:

Anthony J. Nocella II, Priya Parmar and David Stovall

The school-to-prison pipeline is a national concern, from the federal to local governments, and a leading topic in conversations in the field of urban education and juvenile justice. From Education to Incarceration: Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline is a ground-breaking book that exposes the school system’s direct relationship to the juvenile justice system. The book reveals various tenets contributing to unnecessary expulsions, leaving youth vulnerable to the streets and, ultimately, behind bars. From Education to Incarceration is a must-read for parents, teachers, law enforcement, judges, lawyers, administrators, and activists concerned with and involved in the juvenile justice and school system. The contributors are leading scholars in their fields and experts on the school-to-prison pipeline.
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Chapter Nine: Who Wants to Be Special? Pathologization and the Preparation of Bodies for Prison

Extract

← 144 | 145 → CHAPTERNINE

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...

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