By Ricky Rath
Scholars are coming to Western to discuss the “school-to-prison pipeline,” in which primarily students of marginalized racial identities are funneled out of school and into the criminal justice system.
This also intersects with experiences of poverty, abuse, neglect or learning disabilities across America, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
The Justice Speaks Series and Western’s Women Gender and Sexuality Studies will host a free event featuring the topic of dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 22 in Fraser Hall 102.
Professors Erica R. Meiners and Sabina E. Vaught will be the guest speakers at the event.
Both speakers are leading scholars of the school-to-prison pipeline or nexus,feminism and sexuality, and transformative justice, said Tracey Pyscher, secondary education assistant professor.
The event’s theme is “Prison School – Prison Nexus: Building Freedoms, Resistance, & Communities.”
“This theme refers to the goal of investing in true justice, and in building healthy, healing, holistic communities, rather than investing in building jails,” said Elaine Mehary, Education and Social Justice minor program coordinator.
The speakers will also participate in two other community events.
A student-only space will be hosted in the Center for Education, Equity and Diversity in
Miller Hall 005 at noon on Thursday, Feb. 22. Then an event for the Bellingham community will be hosted at the Bellingham Chamber of Commerce at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 23.
Giselle Alcantar Soto, Education and Social Justice minor graduate assistant, said she is excited for the conversations that will be created between the scholars and the community.
“This is a great way for folks to learn about what is happening everywhere in the United States but also in our own community,” Soto said.
Mehary said she hopes the attendees will be encouraged to identify and challenge factors contributing to the school-to-prison nexus after the event.
“We hope to invite both the campus and broader Whatcom communities to these events in order to generate collective conversation, reflection and action,” Mehary said.
Erica Meiners is the professor of education and women and gender studies at Northeastern Illinois University. Sabina Vaught is a professor, chair of the education department and director of women, gender and sexuality studies at Tufts University.
“We were interested in bringing university and community members together to understand and dismantle the school-to-prison pipelines as a part of social justice work,” Pyscher said. “For well over a decade, both Meiners and Vaught have been engaged as community activists and professors.”
Vaught also has a forthcoming book, entitiled “Education and the Dispossession of Youth in a Juvenile Prison School” that is a ethnography of a state’s juvenile prison schooling system.
Meiners is the author of numerous books including “For the Children? Protecting Innocence in a Carceral State” and “The Right to be Hostile: Schools, Prisons and the Making of Public Enemies.”
More information about the event can be found on the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/events/376359992835501/