<Nancy Hanks, Chief of Elementary Schools in Madison, Wisconsin>
A principal met a student she expelled, and it changed her approach to discipline.
“As I tried to pull it together, I could hear my grandmother’s voice saying: “Brand new mercies baby. We all get brand new mercies each day.”
‘Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not “sleep,” naive, or dismissing any of the complexities of institutional racism or mass incarceration or the myriad of forces at work. But when we keep the conversation at that level, it allows to avoid doing something that deep down none of us want to do. Which is make it personal, and admit our own fault and contributions to the pipeline.
I know that’s hard to hear. But yes, you and I, intelligent, well-intentioned warriors of equity — we contribute to the pipeline.
If you’re a teacher, it’s in the moments when the unconscious bias — that we all have, by the way — compels you to address the “aggressive” or “off task” behaviors of your scholars of color while the identical behaviors of their white peers often go unaddressed, banishing those students to the main office, discipline referral form in hand while you continue on with your well-designed Common Core-aligned lesson. That’s your contribution…’