By Kenya King (www.atlantadailyworld.com)
Getting suspended for a minor misbehavior in high school means you might end up in jail as an adult. U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder disclosed this startling statistic at the 100 Black Men of Atlanta’s Leadership Summit held in Lithonia on Saturday, Feb. 25.
“We’ve observed that suspension is too often the first step on the path toward incarceration,” said Holder. “And we’ve learned that suspensions and expulsions during critical years can impact a student’s chances of later success.”
Holder said research conduted by the Department of Justice concluded that punishments youth experience while in school correlate this trend. Overwhelmingly impacted by these indicators are African American, Hispanic and other minority youth, according to Holder.
Less than 50 percent of Black males graduate from high school while more than 60 percent of White male students successfully graduate, he noted. Overall the state of Georgia’s graduation rates lag behind national standards by 30 percent, based on a 2012 Schott Foundation study.
Holder spoke optimistically that change in public polices could help to lessen the chance for these outcomes. He admonished the continuation of students being “deprived of educational opportunities as a form of punishment” and advocated keeping youth in school as a “necessity.”
“I know that keeping students engaged and on the right path is about more than just graduation rates, said Holder. “It’s also about helping our children build an attitude that is geared for success. But it’s also about disrupting what’s become known as the “school-to-prison pipeline,” which – in too many places throughout this nation – transforms our schools from doorways to opportunity into gateways to the correctional system.”
Holder applauded the 100 Black Men of Atlanta, who are distinguished for their long history of mentoring youth, as well as for their work with B.E.S.T Academy for Boys in Atlanta and Project Success program. The organization’s Robotics team, whose students have won numerous awards across the state, has become one of their most coveted initiatives.
“Without question the U.S. has a shortage of the talent that will be required to build a new America – disciplines in engineering and science are always at the forefront of creating and building of those things that become the core of what our societies are about,” said John Grant, CEO of the 100 Black Men of Atlanta.
“When you think about when President John F. Kennedy talked about going to the moon, there was nothing. Nothing existed. So our nation and institutions of higher education began to train our new group of individuals who would create and develop innovative technology. Those things are also found in some of the tools we enjoy today, whether it’s cell phones, PDAs, etc.; they were always involved in training young people at that time. We have to do that again and that’s what we are doing,” said Grant.
Grant said that the 100 Black Men of Atlanta started their Robotics program six years ago because they understood that many students drop out of school because they are not challenged. He said the organization aims to encourage youth to get excited about engineering, science and math. “I see their excitement every day,” said Grant.