I want to address one of the open issues causing an impasse in contract negotiations between my employer, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), and my union, the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA). What is the open issue? Teachers want to add the four social justice words “school to prison pipeline” to the contract, and add language pledging our mutual commitment with MCPS to address the problem.
MCEA has been fighting since 2013 to eradicate the school to prison pipeline and put the term into high visibility public documents to increase teachers’ knowledge of the need to remove polices and practices that create obstacles to success for students of color, and that too often doom them to failure. Following the best practices of the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers and other groups, MCEA has been promoting restorative justice methods.
Last fall, at the Montgomery County NAACP Parents’ Council standing-room-only event, the Black and Brown Coalition demanded that MCPS address the longstanding unmet needs of our black and brown students, including those who also have disabilities. Scores of MCEA members were there. Having just started contract negotiations with MCPS, we teachers responded to our community’s voices by including an “Equity and Access” article to our proposals for the new contract.
But MCPS says, “No.”
I became an MCPS Restorative Justice practitioner in 2013, an MCEA Restorative Justice trainer in 2015, and an MCPS Restorative Justice trainer in 2018. Ending the school to prison pipeline has been a fixed goal in restorative justice training for more than 30 years, including in MCPS Restorative Justice training. That is why is it curious that MCPS is saying, “No.”
The term “school to prison pipeline is not term fad terminology or jargon and deserves to be included in our contract. This term speaks the truth about what happens to students in schools. In 2016 the Montgomery County Office of Legislative Oversight published a report on the school to prison pipeline in our county. In 2017 the Maryland General Assembly established a commission on the School to Prison Pipeline and Restorative Practices, defining the term as “a chain of policies and practices that push a student out of school and into the juvenile or criminal justice system.” In June 2020, our Board of Education used the term when asking superintendent Dr. Smith to study School Resource Officers.
MCEA says “school to prison pipeline” are brave words in education, and MCPS should join us in adding them to the contract.
Teacher at Daly Elementary School
Former MCEA Board Member