Seminar focuses on path for kids

It takes a village to keep a child in school and out of the prison system, those at a School to Prison Pipeline workshop in Augusta said Saturday.

The gathering, held by the Augusta branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was attended by area educators, pupils and parents at the Richmond County Board of Education's Broad Street office.

The day's seminar, called Dismantling the School to Prison Pipeline, addressed the effects of the zero-tolerance policy in schools. Specifically, speakers talked about how the policy forces youths sometimes as young as 9 years old out of classrooms and into juvenile lockups for minor infractions. Speakers said that in a different time, such problems would have resulted in counseling or a visit to the principal's office.

"We have a population of people who are getting less and less education," said Dr. Wanda Jackson, the education chairwoman for the Georgia State Conference NAACP and principal at Cherokee Elementary School in Americus, Ga. "The School to Prison Pipeline creates less-educated people."

Dr. Jackson urged workshop attendees to form a coalition of community agencies to address the social problems that can lead minority children into the juvenile justice system and eventually the criminal justice system. Such social problems, she said, involve health care, child abuse and failing schools.

The School to Prison Pipeline workshop in Augusta was the first in the state to address the issue, said Dr. Edward O. Dubose, the president of the Georgia NAACP.

Dr. Dubose, who attended Saturday's workshop, said the NAACP plans to hold similar events across Georgia about the need to dismantle the School to Prison Pipeline.

"I hope that people walk away understanding that the education system is not just a teacher issue, it's not just a parent issue -- it's a village issue," he said.

Reach Michelle Guffey at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110, or michelle.guffey@augustachronicle.com.

GIVING KIDS A CHANCE

Suggestions for dismantling the Prison to Pipeline cycle:

- Make sure children can read by fourth grade and be able to succeed at work and in life after graduation.

- Provide an after-school program.

- Ensure health care, child care, education and training for pupils.

- Create more jobs.

- Encourage dialogue among parents concerning area school system policies.

Source: NAACP Georgia State Conference