We've made a lot of progress but the school to prison pipeline is still alive and kicking. Arianna Perea shares her encounters with police at North High School.
When I was twelve years old in middle school, I was handcuffed. I was sitting in my classroom and an officer came and told my teacher to send me out into the hallway. I was shocked. I was thinking, what did I do wrong? The school resource officer walked me into an office, and put handcuffs on me. He didn’t even ask me what happened, he just assumed that I must be a dangerous 12 year old girl. When those handcuffs came on, I got angry. I was thinking: why am I here? How did I get here?
That was four years ago, and I think I finally have an answer of how I got there. When I first started school. I liked school. Kindergarten through fourth grade, I was always at school. I asked my teachers for extra assignments. But then things changed. In sixth grade, before my teacher even met me she told my mom that she didn’t want me in the classroom. She was rude to me and said I was in trouble for everything. She thought I was stupid. So I started acting stupid. In 7th grade, my teacher told me I would never be successful. So I sat in the back and slept through class. In 8th grade, she told me: “Why try, you are not going to graduate.” During high school registration for 9th grade, the administrators pulled my family aside, and told my dad that I needed to go to a different school. They said that I would not do well at North High School.
If I’m such a bad kid, then why is it that the only time I’ve been in handcuffs was when I was at school? Every teacher I meet now does not know me. But they know my discipline record. They assume the kind of person I will be. And those same assumptions are how I ended up in handcuffs when I was twelve. Some girl said I threatened her. They didn't even ask me what happened, they just assumed I did it and put me in handcuffs.
I asked them, what evidence do you have that I did this? I don’t even know that girl! I remember, standing there in handcuffs, just staring at the police officers, totally angry and confused. Eventually, they took the handcuffs off me, and told me to go back to class. When I got home that day, I asked my grandma if she got a call from school about the police. She had no idea. No one told her.
For months after that, I didn’t go to school. My grandfather died, and I felt unmotivated to be in school, especially when I had teachers telling me I didn’t belong there. I was in the principal’s office so much that I had my own desk. I didn’t cause any trouble there, but the principal kept me there because the teachers kept sending me back.
They all thought I would never succeed. But I am succeeding. At the end of 8th grade I tried hard and turned in all my assignments. I even won a scholarship. And I am now a student at North and I am looking forward to graduating and going to college.
I am sharing my story because more students need to know their rights. They need to know that if their school is treating them wrong, they can do something about it. They can challenge it. And if the school doesn’t listen, they can file a complaint. The more people who know their rights, the more fair the system can be. And when they come at you with handcuffs – knowing your rights means that those cuffs can come off.