Friday, November 30, 2012

Support Teachers Unite "Growing Fairness" Film on School to Prison Pipeline

Talk about school to prison pipeline? I once got a Thanksgiving Day collect call from an upstate prison from one of my favorite former students serving 15 to life (he got out after 28 years) who after a brief conversation handed the phone over to another fave who then told me there were 9 guys from the same buildings in the cell block.

I guess I didn't know it at the time but with some of my toughest kids I must have been doing some restorative justice given that generally I had good relations with these kids, I think because I wasn't judging them, only a specific behavior.


Not to preach once again, but there is some value in a teaching career working in one neighborhood school (in my case for 27 years) and learning lots of lessons over time. The ed deform destruction of neighborhood schools and the promotion of a teacher turnover corps (don't be dumb and stay in the classroom, go into ed policy) is making that impossible. Enough preaching.

Sally Lee of Teachers Unite uses the video below to present a project aimed to reverse the trend of turning schools into prison-like atmospheres full of police and metal detectors. TU has re-focused its attempts towards restorative justice, which can help change the climate in the relationships between teachers and children with difficult behavior patterns.

I know that some teachers want more police, suspensions, metal detectors, etc. and I know that things are often out of control. But we do not have rational people running the school system and many schools. Throwing kids out or using extreme punishment on damaged kids has no long term benefit to society or to individual teachers. I felt like a total failure when I failed with some kids and I soared when I was successful -- sorry, I never defined success as raising a test score but as being able to move child emotionally in a more positive direction -- which by the way often --- though not always -- moved the test score too.

Sally's husband Josh Heisler writes of his experience:
I am convinced that working with students and adults to resolve the daily problems that arise in the course of a week in a just and caring way is so much better than a authoritarian, top down approach that you see in most schools. The community that can exist in school is really special and practices like fairness go a long way to build these communities. I've learned that this all takes a lot work, caring communities are hard to build and even harder to maintain. It can get messy and complicated. One thing is for sure, you have to reestablish fairness at a school year after year. Students and teachers have to experience this alternative discipline model before they can see its benefits and appreciate the community it builds.

So give Teachers Unite a hand with this project and one day you might find yourself in the role of Androchles facing an angry lion who has been told of your kindness (I know, I know, this was a stretch).

There are only 16 days left to raise the $20,000 and they are a quarter of the way there. I've already sent in my hundred bucks so I can get the tee-shirt.

Here is the donation web site:

And check out this infographic:

Growing Fairness is a short documentary film and companion guide for educators and community members looking to change their school climate for the better. Featuring teachers and students, Growing Fairness will tell a story about school climate, restorative practices and their real impact on young people in New York.

We're so excited about this project that we've already started filming interviews, and before this Indiegogo campaign is through, we will have developed a storyboard for the documentary and outlined the companion toolkit, which will provide concrete resources developed by teachers for school communities to use in making a transformational shift away from suspensions and policing and toward student leadership and community empowerment.

The success of this Indiegogo campaign will determine the quality, scope and impact of Growing Fairness. Your donation will give us the ability to gather more interviews and resources from across the country to give an inspiring look at how whole school districts have taken action and introduced restorative justice to public education. Your donation will also enable us to host screenings and teacher-led workshops with communities across the country, expanding our distribution as well as the impact of the project.

Please help us make our vision a reality. Teachers Unite is a 501(c)(3) organization, so your donations will be tax deductible.


Quick Update: Michael Fiorillo just sent this:
"Isolation Rooms" in Elementary Schools: Are They Treatment or Punishment?
Take a look at the photo in the story and you'll see that the question posed by the title needn't be asked.


  1. Amazing and wonderful truths!! Thank you so much for this important work!! Go NYC teachers (et al) - a Boston public school history teacher.

  2. Powerful and amazing work you all are doing to tell the truth about what is happening!!! NYC teachers rock. - a Boston public civics and history teacher.


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