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Liberation Education, Students ‘push back’ against factors that contribute to school-to-prison

Updated: Nov 19, 2022


In recognition of Freedom School’s National Day of Social Action, students from the Lit City Freedom School did their part to make sure their voices were heard. Equipped with colorful signs and several different chants calling for justice, students held a rally to speak out against factors that contribute the “school-to-prison” pipeline.

Each year Freedom Schools choose a new topic to advocate for on National Day of Social Action and this year’s theme was “youth justice.” During the rally held in the parking lot of Zion Memorial Missionary Baptist Church where the Lit City Freedom School is being held, students talked about how Black youth are disciplined and pushed out of the classroom at rates higher than white students. Data shows that in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County schools, Black students are five times more likely to be suspended than white students.

“Not only do we want to bring awareness to this issue, we want change,” said Jaylen Moore while addressing the crowd during the rally. “We all have stories about being written up and disciplined. We’re not saying we’re perfect, but neither are youth who don’t look like us. Are they being sent to ISS or OSS? Made to clean the cafeteria? Clean school grounds?

“This is unacceptable, so today we’re here to push back. … We are young but we are mighty,” Moore shouted.

Bryson Barr said despite research and people across the country shedding light on the issue, Black children continue to be criminalized at an alarming rate. He mentioned that the use of law enforcement in schools instead of mental health professionals has led to the criminalization of more students each year.

“During the 2015-2016 school year alone, there were over 61,000 school arrests and 230,000 referrals to law enforcement, which were largely over-represented by students with disabilities, Black students, and Indigenous students,” Bryson said. “The prioritization of police over mental health professionals in schools often leads to the criminalization of typical adolescent behavior and fuels the school-to-prison pipeline.”

Since 1995, the Children’s Defense Fund’s (CDF) Freedom School, a six-week literacy-rich summer program has helped build strong, literate children and curb summer learning loss. While much has remained the same with the overall purpose and theme of Freedom Schools, at a time where the lack of African American history courses and Critical Race Theory dominate talks on education, now more than ever Freedom Schools are being used as a platform to empower Black students in a way that may be missing in the normal classroom setting, a term organizers at the Lit City Freedom School here in Winston-Salem have coined as “liberation education.”

This is part one of a two-part series titled “Liberation Education” that will explore how and why Freedom Schools like Lit City are more important now than ever.

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