Rethinking and Deconstructing Violence with Youth

New Popular Education Tool: Sent Down the Drain -Zero Tolerance & STPP

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Project NIA has been working with the Rogers Park Young Women’s Action Team (YWAT) for over a year on a youth-led participatory action research project called “Suspension Stories.”

This project includes survey research, interviews, and art and will culminate in a new website.  As part of the project, members of the YWAT came up with the idea of commissioning a comic about the school to prison pipeline.  Project coordinator and YWAT Leadership Core Member, Lillian Matanmi, approached artist and activist Billy Dee and asked Billy to create a comic that would illustrate the school to prison pipeline.  Billy generously agreed and the result is Sent Down the Drain.

This comic is accompanied by a set of discussion questions that were developed by Project NIA and YWAT.  The comic is meant to serve as a popular education tool that can be used with youth and adults to raise awareness and consciousness about zero tolerance and the school to prison pipeline.

When Project NIA was approached about contributing to the National Week of Action on School Pushout, we reached out to YWAT and asked if we could share Billy’s comic with the Dignity in Schools Campaign.  The young women of YWAT agreed that this would be a great way to spread the word about an issue that they care very much about.

As such, anyone interested in using Sent Down the Drain as a popular education and organizing tool, was exclusively able to access the comic and discussion questions at the Dignity in Schools website during the National Week of Action on School Pushout.

After October 17th, the comic and questions will no longer be available at the Dignity in Schools website. So make sure to download the resource this week as it will only be available again in January 2011 on the Suspension Stories website.

You can view some of our interviews that we’ve collected at our Suspension Stories Youtube Channel.

This PSA that was created last year by the Rethink Learning Now Campaign seems particularly relevant as we kick off the National Week of Action on School Pushout.


During the week of October 11-17, 2010, members of the Dignity in Schools Campaign, a national coalition of parents, youth, advocates and educators from around the country, are organizing actions in 15 cities to expose the school pushout crisis in our nation and advocate for the human right of every young person to a quality education and to be treated with dignity.

Communities will hold town hall meetings, speak with local, state, and federal policymakers and collect testimonies from parents, youth, and educators for its online story bank.

Nationwide, an alarming number of students are being denied educational opportunities as they are pushed out of school by degrading environments, harsh discipline, and other harmful policies.  The National Center for Education Statistics found that in 2006 more than 3.3 million students were suspended out-of-school at least once and 102,000 were expelled.

This crisis impacts historically disenfranchised youth at higher rates. In middle schools, black male students are three times more likely to be suspended than their white peers, based on data from the Department of Education. These punitive practices do not reduce misbehavior but put students at greater risk of failing classes and dropping out.  Each year, 1.3 million students that enter high school will not graduate.

The Dignity in Schools Campaign encourages everyone to take at least one action during October 11-17:

  • Sign the National Resolution to End School Pushout, a call to action released in December 2009 signed by more than 200 individuals and organizations from all 50 states and groups like the National Education Association and School Social Work Association of America
  • Share the National Resolution with your school board or state or national representative.
  • Show a video or teach a lesson on school pushout in your classroom or community.
  • Post your story about pushout on the national on-line Pushout Story Bank at www.youtube.com/dignityinschools.org.

Author: rootsofviolence

This is a blog by Project NIA for our Exploring the Roots of Violence initiative.

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