WTF: What is it with Texas and black children?

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Hat tip to Pandagon 

I saw this and had to share it.   This is a two-week old story, but it encapsulates everything that annoys us as black people.  Another black child was suspended, this time in Austin, Texas and the reason will have you tearing at your hair and mumbling incoherently for the next few days.  First ShaQuonda and now this.  

If this, or something more egregious has happened to your child, Harvard Univerisity’s Civil Rights Project suggests that you take the following steps:

APPROACHING SCHOOL BOARDS

One of the most effective ways to address discriminatory practices in school discipline is to address your school board. Organized presentations can have an immediate impact, and can have great influence if covered by the local media. The following are tips that may be helpful when addressing school boards.

Do background research on the School Board’s policy, procedures, and membership.

  • Call the School Board and find out the time and location of their meetings and if you need to get on the agenda ahead of time.
  • Determine if there are any special procedures for addressing the School Board.
  • Find out if you have allies on the school board.
  • Request the minutes of prior meetings to see whether the school board has recently discussed discipline issues or passed discipline policies.

Bring evidence and supporters.

  • Gather evidence about discipline issues in the schools.
  • Talk to other parents and other possible supporters (including school discipline experts from colleges and universities); encourage them to attend the meeting.
  • Collect stories from children and parents about how discriminatory discipline policies have impacted them.
  • Stress both data and real examples of children who are harmed by the policy to ensure that the focus remains on actual children and the effects of a discriminatory discipline policy.

Contact the media.

  • Before you seek media coverage think carefully about what you want the media to do and choose a spokesperson for you organization.
  • Send a press release to the media about your upcoming school board presentation. Include facts about the discriminatory discipline policy (see Appendix VI for information on writing press releases).
  • Make sure your message is focused on a few major points and “stay on” your message in all your media relations.
  • Be sure to provide contact information for your organization, as well as others in the area that support your message.

Emphasize the following education issues:

  • Fair and effective discipline and high expectations for all children are critically important in schools.
  • Fair and effective discipline teaches children proper behavior.
  • Fair discipline is where the disciplinary consequences match the misbehavior. All children benefit from discipline that teaches appropriate social conduct effectively.
  • Overly punitive discipline is neither fair nor effective.
  • Fair and effective discipline improves the safety of the entire community, inside and outside of the school.
  • A fair and effective policy should not result in children of some racial or ethnic groups being suspended and expelled significantly more often than others for minor offenses.

Communicate to the Board that you are prepared to follow through with legal action, but that legal remedies can be avoided by immediately addressing the concerns. Request that the School Board consider the following actions:

  • Implement a proven effective discipline policy where punishments are fair and crafted as opportunities to teach children appropriate behavior.
  • Decrease class size of “regular” classrooms, so teachers can better address the problems of all students.
  • Increase teacher training in conflict resolution, provide teachers more support in the classrooms, provide better supports for children who appear difficult to manage, and implement programs that will increase effective early intervention.
  • Train teachers so that they are multiculturally aware and able to implement positive classroom management policies.

Shaquanda Cotton Released!!!!!!

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Hat Tip: Vev Speaks, Chicago Tribune 

By Howard Witt
Tribune senior correspondent

March 31, 2007

HOUSTON — Shaquanda Cotton, the black teenager in the small east Texas town of Paris whose prison sentence of up to 7 years for shoving a teacher’s aide sparked nationwide controversy, was released Saturday.

Her release, ordered by a special conservator appointed to overhaul the state’s scandal-ridden juvenile prison system, was the first of what could be hundreds as a panel of civil rights leaders begins reviewing the sentences of every youth incarcerated by the Texas Youth Commission to weed out those being held arbitrarily.

“We have no confidence in the system that was in place,” said Jim Hurley, spokesman for the conservator, Jay Kimbrough. “And this case is an example of what we expect to happen if something wrong has been done to youths being held inside that system.”

Cotton, who is 15, had no prior criminal record when she was incarcerated a year ago under an indeterminate sentence that could have lasted until her 21st birthday. Her case rose to national prominence and became the focus of ongoing civil rights protests after a March 12 Tribune story detailed how a 14-year-old white girl convicted of the more serious crime of arson was sentenced to probation by the same judge.

Cotton’s case occurred against a backdrop of persistent allegations of racial discrimination inside the Paris public schools — allegations that are the subject of a continuing probe by the U.S. Department of Education to determine whether black students in the district are disciplined more harshly than whites.

“When I learned about this case, I thought, this just looks so bad and smells so bad it made me hurt,” said state Rep. Harold Dutton, the influential chairman of the Texas Legislature’s juvenile justice committee. “I told [prison officials] I wanted her out of there immediately.”

The superintendent of the Ron Jackson State Juvenile Correctional Complex in Brownwood, Texas, where Shaquanda Cotton is being held, called the girl’s mother, Creola Cotton, Friday afternoon and told her she could come pick up the youth, Creola Cotton said.

But because it is a five-hour drive from Paris to Brownwood, and the weather in the area on Friday was severe, Creola Cotton said she couldn’t reach the prison until Saturday morning.

Later Friday, prison officials, who had not told Shaquanda of her impending release, allowed her to call her mother.

‘She nearly fell on the floor’

“She thought they were bringing her to the office to tell her I was not going to be able to visit this weekend like I was planning because of the bad weather, so she was already crying,” Creola Cotton said. “I said, ‘Oh, I’m still gonna come see you tomorrow. But you’re going to be coming home with me.’ She nearly fell on the floor.”

Officials said Shaquanda Cotton was being released on 60 days’ probation to allow her to access state health and counseling services. But after that, she would be completely free, they said. Creola Cotton said her daughter would not return to the Paris public schools but would pursue her GED at home.

What effect her release might have on the pending legal appeal of the youth’s case was unclear.

Since she has been in prison, Shaquanda Cotton said that she had grown despondent surrounded by other youths who were hardened criminals, and that she had tried to commit suicide. Her sentence, which ultimately was up to the discretion of prison officials, had twice been extended, first because she would not admit her guilt as required by prison regulations and then because she was found with “contraband” in her cell — an extra pair of socks.

Those sentence extensions drew the attention of Kimbrough, who was confirmed by the state Senate on Thursday as conservator of the youth prison system, which has been rocked by a sex scandal over allegations that guards and administrators coerced inmates for sex.

Kimbrough, a former deputy attorney general, said last week that he was convening a special committee to examine the sentences of all 4,700 youths in Texas juvenile prisons to determine how many might have had their sentences unfairly extended by prison authorities — and that Shaquanda Cotton’s was the first case he intended to review.

Prison officials said it was Kimbrough who personally ordered the girl’s release on Friday.

Since the Tribune’s first account of Shaquanda Cotton’s case, her story has been circulated on more than 400 Internet blogs and featured in newspapers and radio and TV reports across the country. Two protests demanding her release were held in Paris and a third, to be led by Rev. Al Sharpton, was scheduled for Tuesday.

Even before news of her impending release broke Friday, the Lamar County District Attorney’s office, which prosecuted her and pressed for her to be sent to prison for up to 7 years, made an abrupt turnaround and said the youth had served enough time and ought to be freed.

Court discrepancy revealed

“Let her out of TYC,” said Allan Hubbard, spokesman for Lamar County District Atty. Gary Young. “Hell, she’s done a year for pushing a teacher. That’s too long.”

Hubbard also backed away from claims he and Young made this week in numerous media interviews that the judge in the case, Lamar County Judge Chuck Superville, had had no choice but to send the youth to prison because her mother had testified that she would not cooperate with probation officials had the judge sentenced the teen to probation.

On Thursday, Young’s official Web site contained this assertion: “This juvenile’s mother (Creola Cotton) told the judge she would not comply with conditions of probation.”

But a review of the full court transcript shows no such testimony. In fact, Creola Cotton repeatedly answered “yes” when asked in court whether she would comply with any conditions of probation that the judge might impose.

On Friday morning, after an inquiry about this discrepancy by the Tribune, the district attorney’s Web site was altered to read: “Through her actions of non-cooperation, Ms. Cotton told the judge she would not comply with conditions of probation.”

To be young, gifted, black, and locked up

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Prometheus 6 tipped me off to the situation involving Shaquanda Cotton.  Steady yourself before you read this.  Take your blood pressure pill and your nitro glycerin, have a drink, a smoke, a massage, or whatever you have to do to relax because after you read it, you’ll want some answers and won’t be quite up to hearing about, “The Audacity of Hope.”