Prison Prep School

'Zero-tolerance' and 'tough-on-crime' policies put students in a school-to-prison pipeline.

By Rebecca Burns

Metal detectors and uniformed security guards greet students each day at Orr Academy on Chicago’s West Side. “My high school seemed like its own personal prison,” Edward Ward, a 2011 Orr graduate, told the Senate Judiciary Committee during his testimony in December 2012. [RETURN TO ARTICLE]

  • Reader Comments

    “The result, racial justice organizers say, has been an expansion of the war on drugs into a war on the nation’s most vulnerable youth.”

    These “youth” are not vulnerable.  They are monsters preying on the children who actually are capable of being educated but are robbed of it by the savage animal behaviors of these “youths”.  Just imagine the savings that could be had and how much nicer schools could be if we didn’t have packs of wild hyenas roaming the halls.

    Posted by Cotten_Fields on Jan 23, 2013 at 7:58 AM

    The role of high-stakes testing and test-based accountability, mandated by No Child Left Behind and intensified in many cities, including Chicago, in pushing students out of school and into the prison pipleine has been described in a paper by 6 civil rights and education groups, available at… (the executive summary is short). My organization, FairTest, also has a fact sheet on this issue at… (and see related fact sheets).

    Posted by Monty Neill on Jan 23, 2013 at 9:28 AM

    A store owner, police officer and street kid wants a gun to protect themselves with.

    But in England they dont fear being shot so don’t want a gun.

    Perhaps the fist step is a law keeping guns locked up. a police officer with his gun locked in the holster with a fingerprint lock can intervene in domestic disputes not warring or having his gun seized. Even an addict would keep his gun locked in a padlocked duffel bag some of the time if it was far less serious to be caught that way.

    As with people putting on seat belts when they see a cop coming they usually end up keeping them locked to end up relaxing more.

    See, Cell Phones while Driving and Guns in our Cities Is Banning Then the Solution?…

    Posted by Richard Kane on Jan 23, 2013 at 3:32 PM

    Testing is a good measure of how the education is going, yes it is true some people just do not test well, but are very intelligent.  However, civil rights groups do not care about the education children are getting, only about how they can turn everything around to make it a racial issue.  Educators are going to say anything negative they can about these programs since they directly reflect on them for failing to do their jobs.  We need to protect the children by making sure they are actually getting an education and if that means civil rights people and teachers do not like it too bad, we don’t need to make them happy we need to educate our children.  If the school is failing the education then shut them down or get teachers in there that will provide an education.  The BS about minorities does not cut it either, the district needs to be held accountable to make sure they place teachers in every school that can and will do the job, or get rid of them and they need to put the same effort and money into a school in a bad neighborhood as put into an upscale neighborhood.  Testing is not pushing students out of the classroom, educators who fail to educate are pushing students out of the classroom.

    Posted by Joe Cristarella on Jan 24, 2013 at 11:45 AM

    As long as we have a for-profit prison industry writing the narrative about what should require incarceration, we will find it difficult to break the link between racial prejudice and prisons.

    Posted by Dave on Jan 24, 2013 at 8:17 PM

    Edward Ward’s point in the last two paragraphs is important. Large district personnel policies that intend to develop educators by rotating administrators through a series of schools and positions often end up hurting the schools through which the administrators are making their tours of duty because no institutional knowledge is built up over time: the school has virtually no institutional memory among its leadership, unlike private and chartered schools, and new leadership often ends up wasting effort on retrying reforms that have failed in the past.

    Posted by Bruce Smith on Jan 27, 2013 at 3:21 PM

    With a system like ours, who needs slavery?

    Posted by Cave Slave of the Republic on Jan 28, 2013 at 9:10 PM

    If educating students is really so incredibly easy, I suggest you give it a try, Joe.  Teach for a year in an underfunded inner city school and then get back to me.

    Posted by Andrew Sinclair on Jan 28, 2013 at 9:14 PM

    Your child is raped by gang members in her school, so let us have a group counseling session on why she was raped.  The idea that it is OK to stand up in a classrom and scream at the teacher, I WILL KILL YOU MF.  When that child is hoinored by his family and peers for doing that the child is set for failure.  Talking to a child who came from another country, she remarked that in her home country it was the duty of the student to get the respect of the teacher.  Talking back is not good, also the use of student courts is a good idea, bring in the parents.  If the kid is not ready for school he should not be in the classroom. 
    Attitude and your actions will cause you to fail in getting a job and a career.  The rite of passage should not be a felony.

    Posted by 6384601jh on Feb 1, 2013 at 9:56 PM

    Doomed to failure, growing up in a Ghetto, on welfare, one parent with 3-8 kids. School is the last thing when your hungry and threatened to give your attention too.

    The current School system is a failure, students must be given computers and iPads to educate at home and libraries with daily to weekly progress meeting. Schools are armed camps today costing Chicago $51.4 mil on security, that money could buy a lot of Apples.

    Posted by E T on Feb 3, 2013 at 12:49 PM

    There’s a pretty good book that makes that exact case called “Slavery By Another Name: The Reenslavement of Black America from The Civil War to World War II” by Douglas A. Blackmon.  If I were black, the content of this book would infuriate me.  As a Caucasian it makes me want to resign from my race.  The “road gang” forced labor scam persists to this day.

    Posted by Contrarian on Feb 9, 2013 at 8:17 PM