Back to jail

Dear Editor:

This Aug. 10 is the day Pinellas County will be opening its gates for our K-12 grade public school students. Popular television shows and local news programs portray the last few days of summer vacation as parents going out looking for the new deals on school supplies, engaged in the struggle of finding the perfect outfit for the first day back or reinforcing bedtimes again, but let’s not forget that back-to-school time isn’t the same for everyone.

Upon arrival, Gibbs High School (my school) Principal Reuben Hepburn will begin his school-wide famous morning announcements, which consists of greeting students for another school year. Unfortunately, they’re not famous because they’re greeting and welcoming, they’re famous because students hate hearing them in the morning.

Hepburn will go on to remind students that “cell phones should be turned off and put away, if not they will be confiscated and a parent will have to come at the end of the school day and retrieve the cell phone.”

This quote is something that is drilled into his students’ heads on a daily basis and will be said over the intercom daily until the last day of school. You would expect to hear other things in morning announcements, such as the lunch menu for that day, upcoming events for sports, etc., but no. You can expect to hear the principal of your school push for the correction of behavior rather than what school is envisioned to be: a place of “learning.”

Now let us move on to the rest of your first day of school. Sorry, I couldn’t possibly speak on the issues of coming back to school without mentioning these “resource officers.”

When we go back next Thursday, we can look forward to police escorts to lunch, being locked inside the lunch room, constant police vehicles circling and driving through the campus and the constant pacing of administrators up and down hallways, just waiting to stop an African and question their whereabouts.

You can’t even walk to certain parts of the school because administrators and officers have been placed to block certain stairwells, hallways and entrances to different parts of the school. Can you think of another government institution that prohibits the movement of the people inside at these lunch times on a daily basis?

If you thought about jail, then you are very correct—and that’s sad.

But let’s move on from lunch. We have come to the end of our day and afternoon announcements have come on basically being a repeat of what occurred that morning.

We are informed of bus route changes and upcoming events, but what is an announcement from Principal Hepburn without reminding the students that they are restricted from certain luxuries while in school?

This is the African youth’s reality for the first day of school, and any other regular day of school for that matter. So no, we cannot allow television shows and local news reports to speak for us going back to school, well at least under Pinellas County’s district.

To correctly address this issue, we need a way for the black community to decide what the school system teaches, as well as how administrators and the entire administrative body operate with students.

Thankfully, I’ve seen this on two candidates’ platforms: Jesse Nevel for Mayor and Eritha “Akile” Cainion for District 6. Vote Jesse and Akile on Aug. 29 or today from your mail-in ballot!

Iniko Kitemoma

2 Replies to “Back to jail”

  1. Ginny says:

    Really appreciate this article from Iniko. The Black community including students is under police patrol consistently. The police are an occupying army in the Black community and this must stop. I’m with Jesse Nevel for Mayor and Eritha Akile Cainion for District 6 City Council; they understand that in order for St. Pete to come into the future and be the best city it can be, the oppression of the Black community and the harassment and police containment of Black youth must stop! #BlackCommunityControlOfPolice!

  2. Joe Davis says:

    It’s no coincidence that The System specifically placed more police officers, metal detectors, and search dogs in urban schools which systemically criminalizes and incarcerates urban kids at a far disproportionate rate than kids from the suburbs as a result of the “zero tolerance” policies that have been very harmful to urban kids over these past few decades.

    Suburban schools these days have suburban kids bringing guns, knives, and other weapons on those campuses and they’re not criminalized nor incarcerated at the disproportionate rate that urban kids are and they can get away with offenses at school that urban kids are severely punished and incarcerated for.

    I had also noticed the contradictions between the suburban schools I attended back when I was a kid and the urban schools I attended when I was a teen:

    The suburban schools these days look like college campuses because they get the best resources, better equipment, as well as a better education while urban schools get dipilatated classrooms, nasty bathrooms, more resource officers, underfunding for programs that could be beneficial to young urban kids, etc. This shows that there is clearly a huge divide between urban kids and colonial kids.

    The only real genuine solution that will truly address the needs of our kids and their future is Black Community Control Of The Schools in which we should teach our kids curriculum that’s truly culturally relevant as well as hiring more urban teachers to teach our kids in predominant urban schools that reduces the chance of them dropping out and getting suspended.

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