Youth Rally for Education

DETROIT—When Quentin McKinnon, 17, tells people about this Saturday’s Youth Takeover March to break the school-to-prison pipeline in Detroit, he’s darn straight about what he wants folks to know.

“I’m telling them this is a system that is unfair,” says McKinnon. “I explain the school to prison pipeline and how more resources are going into the prison system. I tell them that a student is worth roughly $8,000 a year and a prisoner is worth $40,000.”

McKinnon is a senior at Detroit Institute of Technology at Cody High School where he has seen the problems first hand: behavioral issues lead to kids getting kicked out of class leads to suspension. Grades drop and problems aren’t resolved.

McKinnon has noticed a lack of resources for students who have problems at home, who are dealing with ADD and ADHD, or who have other mental health issues.

And when those kids act out, it’s not always dealt with effectively.

“There are a lot of teachers in our schools who can’t relate to a student’s problems or issues,” says McKinnon. “All they can do is kick them out of the classroom.”

“I’m telling them this is a system that is unfair,” says McKinnon. “I explain the school to prison pipeline and how more resources are going into the prison system. I tell them that a student is worth roughly $8,000 a year and a prisoner is worth $40,000.”

In Detroit, out of 70,000 students, there were 25,534 suspensions in the 2011-2012 school year. The year prior, the average Detroit high school student missed 28 days of school. In one small pocket of Detroit, Brightmoor, 60 percent of the community’s 7,000 or so students missed 10 or more days of school.

These same students, kicked out of school and left to their own devices, often end up in the juvenile justice system where, McKinnon says, too much money is spent.

“It costs more to send someone to prison than to send a student to college,” says McKinnon. “That’s ridiculous.”

As part of YOUTH VOICE, an organization of Detroit youth who tackle community and political issues to create change, McKinnon and his peers have planned a rally to raise awareness about the high rate of suspension and lack of resources to keep kids in school.

Attend the Rally

The rally takes place this Saturday, March 23, from 1 - 3 p.m. It will start at Cass Park on Second Ave., with the march proceeding to the Wayne County Jail and culminating at Second Baptist Church. Here youth will give testimonies, talk about their solutions, present their time line, and, hopefully, engage the community to help out.

Kayla Mason, YOUTH VOICE lead organizer, says that the rally was the result of the youth looking at Governor Snyder’s proposed budget for the prison system, which she says is close to $2 billion. After learning that, the youth conducted more research and met with organizations, like the ACLU, to better understand the issues and possible solutions, like Restorative Justice practices and other alternatives to suspension.

From there, they came up with the idea for a youth takeover to raise awareness: “We decided to do a rally because we all decided that this is a big problem. We need a larger amount of people to know what’s going on,” says McKinnon. “We want change to happen and the number of people involved equals power.”

The YOUTH VOICE platform for change will include getting Detroit Public Schools to implement the revised zero tolerance policy from the Board of Education. Says Mason, “Right now it’s kind of vague how they’re using it to suspend people.”

McKinnon says that the group also wants to make people more aware of the statistics, like how many kids are missing too much school and how that impacts their success.

Lastly, they want school policy change: for the schools to offer alternatives to suspension.

Says McKinnon: “The point of school is to educate not to kick students out and deprive them of their education due to certain situations.”

Check out more images on Flickr.

 

Attend the rally and to get involved, join YOUTH VOICE Detroit Facebook page.

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