The strike was illustrated through prisoner participation in sit-ins, boycotts, work strikes and hunger strikes. Non-incarcerated individuals were invited to join by contacting political representatives with these demands and voting out those who refuse to represent the needs of prisoners, spreading the word into institutions across the nation and through media, and assisting in initiatives to promote inmate suffrage. This strike illustrated how anyone can participate in the abolition of current prison systems and injustices through minute, yet strategic efforts. Although such systems and injustices are imbedded in the foundation of America, strong efforts to promote a long-term protest and eventually abolish such conditions should occur within K-12 schools, where the fundamental values of children, the world leaders of the future, are learned.
Educators can support the 2018 National Prison Strike by recognizing how classroom management strategies model and teach a carceral philosophy of ‘disposable’ people. According to the Human Freedom Index, freedom is defined as a social concept that recognizes the dignity of individuals, thus implying that individuals have the right to lead their lives as they wish if they respect the equal rights of others.
When the rights of prisoners are being violated, nobody is free. Teachers have the power to install concepts of freedom within the next generation and set a standard on how to respect and demand respect from and for others. The classroom provides a great environment on learning how to treat others.
When the classroom is managed in a way that replicates the social issues surrounding the National Prison Strike, it is expected for future politicians to be oblivious to such issues for that is all that they know.
According to the Glossary of Education Reform, classroom management is defined as “the wide variety of skills and techniques that teachers use to keep students organized, orderly, focused, attentive, on task, and academically productive during a class”. A trend within K-12 schools is that the skills and techniques used rely on punishment, exclusion, removal, control and the policing of the student body, primarily of the African-American student population.
Disciplinary referrals signal the point where teachers acknowledge that a student’s behavior is beyond their professional and personal capacity to manage. Studies show that non-compliance and defiance are the most frequent reasons for referral. Such behaviors are perceived as a treat to teacher authority and control of the classroom and are met with controlling behavior, demands for compliance, threats of punishment and ultimatums. A power-struggle commences between the student and the teacher and is ‘resolved’ when the student is removed from the classroom. Such confrontation damages the relationship between the student and the teacher. It fails to acknowledge and provide a long-term solution to the problem. Once exiled from the classroom the student could be forced to sign a behavior contract or have a parent-teacher conference, but most frequently face suspension or expulsion.
Black students are more likely to be subjected to punishment by authority in the classroom and suffer detrimental consequences that could prevent them from achieving success. In 2011-2012, out of approximately 50 million students enrolled in American public schools, 6.4 percent of students received out of school suspension (OSS). Out of the total student population, 15.4 percent of Black students , 19.6 percent of Black males , and 11.1 percent of Black females received OSS. Out of the .2 percent of students expelled, .5 percent of Black students faced expulsion. In fall 2013, White students represented 50 percent of student population, 25 percent were Hispanic, 16 percent were Black, and 5 percent were Asian/Pacific Islander. The second minority group of students represents the majority of students suspended and expelled, although studies show that Black students do not generally misbehave more than White students do.
Among others, antisocial behaviors and involvement in the criminal justice system are major consequences of high suspension rates among Black students. Students’ college acceptances are also in jeopardy as 89 percent of post-secondary universities use high school disciplinary information to make admission decisions. These high rates can be contributed to lack of training in cultural (including race and poverty) responsiveness and sensitivity. Teachers must acknowledge the effects of banishing children from the classroom and must check their lack of understanding and cultural miscommunication when encountering with students of color.
Implementing concepts of freedom in classroom management does not suggest a free-for-all environment. Barry Fields offers the solution of defensive behavior management. Educators must assess their teaching and managerial behavior to identify and avoid conditions that may trigger student misbehavior, careful observe classroom situations that may cause disruption, be able to control emotions when confronted when misbehavior, responding quickly to occurrences of the classroom and avoid “collisions” with students when such conflict leads to negative results. Teachers need to be confidence and assertive in the classroom to implement defensive behavior management.
Angela Davis in her book Are Prisons Obsolete? teaches that, “[Prisons] relieves us of the responsibility of seriously engaging with the problems of our society”. Disciplinary actions such as suspension and expulsion taken against students correlates with the same ideology. Dismissing the student from the classroom does not dismiss the problem. The peers of those who are suspended or expelled from school should not be content with their education when it comes with the expense of other students’ right to learn and strips them of an equal opportunity to prosper, for they cannot express freedom. The problem becomes that misbehaving students are not treated as a human with problems, but rather a problem for humans that is ‘disposable’. One student explained, “If I got one thing out of those suspensions it was that I was a guy without any worth in the world”. Educators must teach students to demand that every one of their peers is being taken care of, incorporated, and treated with dignity.