School Systems Are Failing Students of Color

Since I’ve begun advocating, I’ve been able to take a step back and form my own opinion on major topics that affect my peers and me on a great scale.

One major problem that strikes home for me is the schools-to-prisons pipeline so many of us are accustomed to. For years, I watched friends of mine grow up to hate school, but still be eager to learn. Every day the same people would get called out in class for minor incidents, such as chewing gum or getting out of their seats to throw something away.

Now that I’m more educated on the topic, I believe most of these were acts of hate against my fellow students. No matter how hard I or others of a darker pigmentation try, we’ll still come in last place.

I believe the school system is not entirely at fault because, from what I’ve seen, the people who enforce these rules tend to abuse their power.

Many of my friends haven’t come from a privileged background and have been raised to work hard for what they want. A huge problem I have noticed in the school system is that the people in charge often reward those who have perfect attendance, rather than the students who struggle every day to get to school and still try to learn.

Another major problem I’ve noticed in the school system is that every year more and more funding for creative activities, like music or art, gets cut and the money gets spent instead on things like surveillance cameras or security guards. This isn’t healthy for anyone.

From my own experience, if I’m not able to do at least one thing I really enjoy at school, everything else seems like a huge waste of my time. I begin to question why I’m sitting in a classroom getting lectured and what better things I could be putting my time to.

Although I’ve never experienced being noticeably disliked by any of my teachers, I have experienced a lot of secondhand hate because of the people I choose to hang around with.

Ninety-nine percent of the time, when one of my friends was acting up at school the foundation of the problem came from outside the school system – whether that was from a situation at home or them dealing with their own individual issues.

Schools are meant to be one of the places where you can get help from a teacher or a counselor, but when both of these options fail students I’ve often seen them take the hand that was reaching out to them. Even if that hand is coming from someone who who does not have their best interests in mind.

Even though I don’t believe any one of my friends or anyone who may be going through a bad time is a bad person, I believe that once they can no longer get the proper help from school, they may make some bad choices.

And often these bad choices end up with them in a juvenile delinquency center or a gang – or they simply give up on life.

I dislike a great many things that pertain to the school system, but one of the most disagreeable forms of discipline is the suspension of preschool children.  I’ve watched my little brother struggle with multiple teachers who make it seem as if he’s not trying when really, he simply doesn’t get the help he needs.

It’s been noted that when he gets frustrated and can’t get help, he tends to shut down or act up. Instead of taking the time to understand and help him, they do away with him and send home complaint letters. I believe suspending a preschooler is one of the worst things you could do as a teacher and even having that be an option shows a lot about how much they really care about little children.

Last year California’s schools suspended more than 240,000 students, mainly for being defiant. “Defiant” is a term that gets used and abused in our schools. Respect must be earned and, in the event that someone – in this case a teacher or staff member – isn’t helping you or treating a student with respect, then that student should have the rights to express his/her disliking of that treatment within reason.

For example, if a teacher were to yell at and/or violate a student’s personal space, once it goes to administration, it’s no longer a two-sided story. It’s the teacher’s word over the student’s.

Nine times out of 10, the teacher’s word wins. So students believe they’re powerless against their teachers and this only encourages them to continue to act out.

Fresno schools should be focusing more on creativity and teaching to be patient, calm and collected. All schools should also have a peer mediation program that allows another student or peer to handle disciplinary situations on a more personal and understanding level –  instead of simply resorting to suspensions.

I strongly believe the reasons for going to school have been completely lost. It’s assumed that school is the only way you’re going to get somewhere in life. So, with statistics showing youth of color are disproportionately targeted, I’ve come to believe the school system doesn’t want people of color to succeed.

Aqeela Starks (she/her/hers) on Instagram
Aqeela Starks (she/her/hers)
WHO IS SHE? Aqeela Elisha Amani Latrice Starks is 18 years old and graduated from Big Picture high school Class of 2017. She loves spending time writing and drawing. When she’s not doing that she spends hours playing The Sims 3 and 4 and watching Netflix.

DID YOU KNOW? She can’t go a day without coffee, loves sour candy and her favorite color is blue.

FEATURED AREA: Writing, Event Coverage and Instagram.

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