No Class for Low Class

February 3, 2015

By: Johnny Hollis

In reflecting on the transition from an HBCU (Historically Black College and University) to law school, I realized that highlighting disparities based on race alone totally missed the point of what the real issue is in our country.[1]  That issue is the socioeconomic challenge that widens the gap between those who can escape poverty through educational means.   There are many American citizens forced to live under the oppression of poverty because of socioeconomic challenges that rob them of the chance of obtaining an education.

1

How Does Socioeconomic Status Affect Education?

Socioeconomic status is the measure of influence that the social environment has on individuals, families, communities, and schools.[2]  Most of the time it is simply referred to as class, and is a strong indicator of performance in academic settings.  Socioeconomic status is often measured as a combination of education, income, and occupation, and is conceptualized as the social standing or class of an individual or group.  When viewed through a social class lens, privilege, power, and control are emphasized.[3]

A student who comes from a higher socioeconomic status has the greatest opportunity to succeed in academic studies.  Their parents are in a position to encourage creativity and extended studies.  The student has less financial worries and is able to focus solely on the academic challenges and tools presented.  The student is confident, poised, and excels without much external interference.[4]

As with other areas of life, a person who grew up in a lower class may have to overcome challenges such as maintaining health, a living area, transportation, and adequate food.  The simplest tasks become monumental because the power of money cannot be used to cross the hurdle.  For example, a young man who came from a poor family cannot call home and ask his parents to buy his books.  So either he must use the books in the library (which are in short supply and high demand), or he must work more in order to purchase his books, both of which may detract from his study time.  Additionally, if he is placed in a position where there is no on-campus housing, then he likely has worry about paying rent and utilities on top of tuition and other academic expenses.  While his wealthy colleague has a parent who may generously pay for living expenses, the poor student has to work in order to live.

2

When it comes to the classroom, instructors often do not understand the reason that a student may have to work, or why a student is sleepy or not performing well.  The instructor can only perceive that the student is on edge and is performing poorly in the class.  An oft-proclaimed mantra is: a student is responsible for his own future.  Failure to succeed can be perceived as laziness or incompetence.  It is difficult to relate to the poor student without an understanding of the systemic imperatives that deflect, detract, and deter poor students from escaping the cycle of poverty.

Paul Gorski, an associate professor in New Century College and a Research Fellow in the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being, states that:

If we convince ourselves that poverty results not from gross inequities (in which we might be complicit) but from poor people’s own deficiencies, we are much less likely to support authentic antipoverty policy and programs. Further, if we believe, however wrongly, that poor people don’t value education, then we dodge any responsibility to redress the gross education inequities with which they contend. In our determination to “fix” the mythical culture of poor students, we ignore the ways in which our society cheats them out of opportunities that their wealthier peers take for granted. We ignore the fact that poor people suffer disproportionately the effects of nearly every major social ill. They lack access to health care, living-wage jobs, safe and affordable housing, clean air and water, and so on—conditions that limit their abilities to achieve to their full potential.[5]

How Do We Move Forward

Historically, our nation has experienced difficulty in providing the tools needed to achieve “the American dream.”  While schools are plentiful, the cost of college education continues to skyrocket.  Since 1985, the college education costs have risen over 500%.  This deters the amount of poor students who attempt to achieve a college degree.  These rising costs also leave those who do attend college with an even greater debt.  According to U.S. News, over 25% of graduate students will graduate with college debt that tops $100,000.  As our nation moves forward, we could advocate for making college education more affordable, while restructuring our public assistance programs towards promoting post-secondary education.

The Washington Post writes that Germany eliminated or significantly reduced tuition because they understood that the rise in cost “discourage[s] young people who do not have a traditional academic family background from taking up study . . . and [ensures] that young women and men can study with a high quality standard free of charge.” [6]   In France’s public institutions, undergraduate tuition is based on the income of a student’s parents.  Meanwhile, in Sweden, one of the richest countries in the world, PhD programs are completely free.

Perhaps the United States is far from reaching a point in its politics and social policies to allow for the free education programs that are provided in Germany, France, and Sweden.  However, we can challenge the current public assistance regulations and incentivize recipients who return to school and learn a trade or earn a professional degree.  If we can at least make college education and graduate studies more affordable, this will be a huge step towards abolishing the obstacles that create no class for low class.

[1] http://www.ed.gov/edblogs/whhbcu/one-hundred-and-five-historically-black-colleges-and-universities/

[2] http://www.education.com/reference/article/socioeconomic-status/

[3] http://www.apa.org/pi/ses/resources/publications/factsheet-education.aspx

[4] http://www.education.com/reference/article/socioeconomic-status/

[5] http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/apr08/vol65/num07/The-Myth-of-the-Culture-of-Poverty.aspx

[6] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2014/10/29/7-countries-where-americans-can-study-at-universities-in-english-for-free-or-almost-free/


The Low-Down on the Beat-Down: How Corporal Punishment is Damaging Our Children and Continuing Racial Discrimination

January 13, 2015

By: Carla Vestal

Events within the National Football League (NFL) have once again brought up an age old argument: How should parents and schools discipline children?  Within the past weeks, you may have heard a friend or family member say, “I was whooped and I deserved it,” “No-one is going to tell me what to do in my home with my kids,” “The Bible says, ‘Spare the rod. Spoil the child,’” or other similar remarks.

The effect of corporal punishment is far more than the immediate physical pain a child will feel.  Corporal punishment breeds a culture of violence, has been directly linked to mental and emotional health issues, and continues a legacy of racial discrimination in the South.

What is Corporal Punishment?

Corporal punishment is defined as, “the infliction of physical pain upon a person’s body as punishment for a crime or infraction . . . In a broad sense, the term also denotes the physical disciplining of children in the schools and at home.”  Spanking, whooping, whipping, and paddling are all forms of corporal punishment.  Often times this type of action is carried out by the adult using their hands, belts, switches, paddles, and, in extreme cases of abuse, electrical cords, spatulas, and wooden cutting boards.

What is the law?

All states allow parents to physically hit their child as long as the force used is considered “reasonable.”  When cases of corporal punishment become extreme enough to constitute abuse it is likely the Department of Social Services (DSS) or the court system will become involved.  In these instances what is “reasonable” varies by geographic region and community standards.

Currently, nineteen states allow for corporal punishment in the public school system.  Interestingly, the majority of these states are in the South and are commonly referred to as the “slave states” or the Bible Belt.[1]  In these states, corporal punishment is administered in a racially and ethnically biased manner which targets African American, Native American, and Special Education children.[2]

What do the statistics tell us?

Multiple national surveys of parents report almost identical results.  In one cross-sectional study from Child Trends, 77% of men and 65% of women agreed that corporal punishment is appropriate for children.  The results of a study conducted on North Carolina parents showed that 74% of North Carolinian mothers admitted to hitting a child under two-years old and 5% admitted to using corporal punishment on a child younger than three months old!

A comprehensive study conducted by the American Civil Liberty Union (“ACLU”) and Human Rights Watch concluded that in schools where corporal punishment is allowed, the punishment is administered in a racially biased manner.  African Americans make up roughly 17.1% of the public school population yet sustained 35.6% of reported corporal punishment.  Males were paddled more frequently than females, but African American girls were paddled at a rate of 2:1 to Caucasian girls.

Another alarming finding of the study dealt with students with disabilities.  Children who need special education services in Texas comprise only 10% of the student body yet received 17% of the beatings by school administrators.[3]

What is the science behind the spankings?

Empirical data analysis conducted over a twenty year span links physical discipline, in any form, to an increase in a variety of mental health issues which may not even develop until later in life.  Mood disorders, anxiety disorders, aggressive/violent tendencies, depression and bi-polar disease, and alcohol and drug addictions have all been linked with having been hit as a child.  It does not matter whether the corporal punishment rises to the level of abuse in a legal sense.  The injury to the child’s developing psyche occurs when hit with any force.[4]

In the school setting particularly, corporal punishment serves to legitimize violence.  Students have to suffer the humiliation and indignation of having other students know that they were forced to bend over a table or chair, sometimes with exposed buttocks, to get hit.  Peer-to-peer and student-to-teacher relationships erode.  As a result of the student’s lack of trust in educators, students withdraw academically.  This eventually leads to a higher drop-out rate in school districts that use paddling.

In either environment, corporal punishment changes the trajectory of brain development.  In layman’s terms, children who received corporal punishment have less grey matter in their prefrontal cortexes.  It is well-established that less grey matter in the prefrontal cortex is an indicator of mental and emotional psychosis.  This area of the brain is also responsible for cognitive development.  Researchers also have found a significant correlation between corporal punishment and lower IQ scores on standardized tests.  The end result of the study conducted by The National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health concluded that the grey matter children need to develop into mentally and emotionally healthy adults who exhibit self-control is being eroded with each strike of corporal punishment.  Corporal punishment has the exact opposite effect on children than what the discipline technique is intended to encourage.[5]

Why do parents and schools still use corporal punishment in spite of the scientific evidence against it?

The answer to this question has deep societal roots.  Many parents continue to spank and whip their children because, as children, they were subjected to corporal punishment themselves.  This is how the cycle of ineffective parenting and in extreme cases abuse is passed from generation to generation.

Elizabeth T. Gershoff, the nation’s leading advocate of alternative parenting techniques which do not include physically hitting a child, has concluded that corporal punishment is the result of lower educational levels in parents and geographic location.  Her research, which has spanned fifteen years, posits that corporal punishment in the South is a remnant of slavery and the concentration of conservative Christian religions.

When parents possess a college education, the use of corporal punishment in the home drops drastically from 55% to 38%.  This is due to the parents understanding the long term negative effects of spanking, having better coping techniques and using alternative methods of discipline.

Conservative Christian religions, which are heavily concentrated in the Bible Belt, often recite the “Spare the rod, spoil the child” mantra found in the Old Testament.  Focus on the Family, a conservative religion website, even goes so far as to teach parents how to hit their children without leaving evidence of bruising or welting of the skin and what type of “wooden spoon or paddle” to use.

http://www.fpnotebook.com/legacy/Peds/Prevent/CrprlPnshmnt.htm

Moving Forward and Repairing the Damage

As of now, corporal punishment will remain a choice for parents and schools.  As more of the public becomes educated about the adverse effects of physical punishment, parents will hopefully do some self-reflection and explore other avenues to help their children respect boundaries in the home and school.

Public school systems in the South should be open to review their policies on corporal punishment, to absorb the scientific data on its use in the academic setting, and examine the links between slavery and how societal norms across the country no-longer support paddling in schools.

It is a difficult endeavor to challenge parents to think differently about corporal punishment when they use religious convictions to justify its use.  However, this relates back to education and particularly scientific breakthroughs.  The often cited “Spare the rod, spoil the child” defense goes back to the time of Solomon (roughly 3,000 years ago).  Grey matter in brain development could not be monitored through MRIs 3,000 years ago as it is today.[6]

In the end, the use of corporal punishment will remain a heated debate among parents, educators, church groups and society in general. One thing is for sure: it is a personal choice that each person in the position to administer corporal punishment will have to weigh out in his or her consciousness.

If you feel that you have been subjected to extreme corporal punishment in the form of physical abuse, please contact your nearest police department immediately.

National Domestic Violence Hot-line: 1-800-799-7233

National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453)

[1] States that allow corporal punishment in the public school systems include: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming.

[2] For statistics applicable to North Carolina: http://www.carolinaparent.com/articlemain.php?Who-s-Getting-Spanked-in-N.C.-Public-Schools-3299.

[3] For a more in depth analysis of special education and corporal punishment see: https://www.aclu.org/impairing-education-corporal-punishment-students-disabilities-us-public-schools-html.

[4] http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-me-in-we/201202/how-spanking-harms-the-brain

[5] For a meta-analytic review of how corporal punishment discourages positive long-term behavior and encourages a lack of self-realization see: http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/bul-1284539.pdf.

[6] Interestingly, Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, went on to become a tyrant of a ruler whose subjects revolted against him.  He exhibited signs of extreme aggression and lacked empathy for his people.  “Whereas my father laid upon you a heavy yoke, so shall I add tenfold thereto.  Whereas my father chastised (tortured) you with whips, so shall I chastise you with scorpions.  For my littlest finger is thicker than my father’s loins; and your backs, which bent like reeds at my father’s touch, shall break like straws at my own touch.”  (1 Kings 12).  This adds weight to the scientific evidence that we have today that hitting children leads to anti-social behaviors and mental disease.


Undocumented Parents Struggle to Participate in the Classroom

October 17, 2014

By: Courtney Rudy

It is only natural for a parent to want to participate in their child’s life.  A major part of a child’s life is in their classroom education.  While most parents have the ability to participate in their child’s classroom, parents of undocumented children in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) do not have that right.

The Problem

An undocumented person is a person who has entered the United States illegally and is deportable if apprehended.  An undocumented person can also be someone who entered the United States legally but who has fallen “out of status” and is deportable.[1]  Currently, undocumented parents are not allowed to volunteer at CMS because the county’s volunteer application requires parents to have a social security number and a North Carolina driver’s license.[2]  Because undocumented parents are in the United States illegally and do not have either, they are not allowed to participate at their child’s school.[3]  However, even though the parents are undocumented, their children are entitled by law to enroll in school.[4]  Current guidelines enable the principal to utilize discretion in allowing the child’s parent to volunteer and interact with their child’s education.  However, this does not guarantee all parents the ability to see their children at school.[5]

Undocumented parents are seeking the right to be allowed into their children’s classroom so they can be more involved in their education.  They want to be able to go into their children’s classroom and participate in the same way other parents do.  They also want to be able to attend the school so they can be more hands-on with their children and help them if they fall behind.  Also, it has been shown that increased parental involvement will increase a child’s academic success.[6]  Other major cities, such as Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, New York, and Houston, allow undocumented parents to fully participate in their child’s school without submitting their social security numbers and driver’s license.  These cities allow the parents to participate by conducting a criminal background search using the parent’s basic information and by accepting passports as a means of identification.

071210-N-4399G-169

The Proposal

A committee at CMS has drafted a proposal to help undocumented parents become more involved in their child’s schooling.  The proposal contains three levels of parental involvement.  Level one only requires that the parents provide their name and date of birth.  Once the parent has provided the information, the lobby guard system will run a background check to see if the parent has any sexual offense charges.  If the parent is free of charges they will be allowed access to their child, and their child only.  Level two allows the parent to interact under the direct supervision of a CMS employee with not only their child, but other children as well.  For this interaction to occur, the parent would need to present one form of a valid photo ID with their name and date of birth.  A license, passport, or consular ID will satisfy the requirements for level two interactions.[7]

Level three allows unsupervised access inside and outside the school.  Unsupervised access includes allowing parents to tutor or volunteer to be a field trip chaperone.  For level three, parents are required to have a social security number, valid North Carolina driver’s license, and pass a background check showing that they are free of felonies and sexual offenses.  The requirements of a social security number and North Carolina driver’s license will exclude undocumented parents from level three interactions.[8]

In order for these changes to be implemented, the proposal will need to be approved by the Superintendent of CMS, Heath Morrison.  There is no clear indication as to when this proposal will be implemented if approved.  If the proposal were to be approved it would be a huge victory for undocumented parents because it would grant them a greater ability to participate in their children’s education.  Stay tuned to the Civil Rights Clinic Blog to find out if the proposal is passed!

[1] A legal immigrant can fall out of status by violating the terms of their visa.  An example of this is a legal immigrant who has over stayed they term of their visa. http://www.irs.gov/individuals/International-Taxpayers/Immigration-Terms-and-Definition-Involving-Aliens.

[2] CMS Volunteer Application

[3] To obtain a driver’s license in North Carolina you are required to present two documents proving age and identity, proof of Social Security, proof of residency showing that you have a legal presence in the U.S., and proof of registration.  For a non-citizen to be approved for a social security card they need to have permission to work from the Department of Homeland Security.  If the non-citizen does not have a permit to work there needs to be a federal or state law that requires a social security number to get a particular benefit for which they have already qualified.  A non-citizen cannot get a social security number for the sole purpose of obtaining a driver’s license. http://www.ssa.gov/ssnumber/ss5doc.htm#work.

[4] Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982).  The Supreme Court of the United States case held that it is a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment for school districts to deny funding for education to undocumented children.  The application of Plyler v. Doe is limited to K-12 schooling.

[5] http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/08/17/5112354/solutions-elude-cms-on-undocumented.html#.U_gJpmM09EK#storylink=cpy.

[6] http://edsource.org/2013/parenting-classes-tailored-for-latino-families-show-promise-in-closing-achievement-gap/33022#.VC9G4kvtWzA.

[7] http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d04881.pdf.   Consular ID’s are issued by some governments to their citizens who are living in foreign countries.  Consular ID’s contain the person’s name and date of birth.

[8] http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/09/24/5197429/cms-team-sets-path-for-more-immigrant.html#.VCSYskvtWzA#storylink=cpy


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