Will Povertenza Dismantles The School-To-Prison Pipeline

Dec 15, 2013 by

Will Povertenza Be The Defense That Finally Dismantles The School-To-Prison Pipeline And Sets Our African-American Males Free?

Kandise Lucas, Ph.D.  – Earlier this week, I read what I considered to be a satirical and blatantly fictional article regarding the criminal sentencing of Ethan Couch, a 16 year-old Texan, who killed four human beings, which included a mother and daughter; and permanently maimed two of the seven passengers in his car when was driving under the influence of alcohol last June.
Couch pleaded guilty to the horrific crimes, which for all intents and purposes should have been classified as second degree murder at the very least due to his previous criminal records involving underaged alcohol use, which he plead no contest to .
Because Ethan is white and rich, rich and white, he will not serve one day in prison for murdering four and permanently disabling two others.  Instead, based on his attorneys’ and psychologist’s claim of “affluenza,” which is classified as a mental illness; Ethan engaged in this grossly negligent act because of his upbringing and because he, “had too much and did not know had to distribute it.”
Texas State District Judge Jean Boyd fell for the “affluenza defense,” or “white privilege defense,” as it should be rightfully called, and “sentenced” Couch to ten years of probation, while receiving therapy in a residential rehabilitation program, which his parents will finance for $450,000.
Many of us have seen this same type of scenario run its course in our courts as well as our schools.  If you are rich and white, then your student is less likely to be suspended or disciplined in school.  In school districts like Henrico County, Virginia, the gross disparities that support this assertion are without dispute.  A year after being listed third in the nation by The UCLA Civil Remedies Project,  for violating the civil rights of African-American students by denying them educational opportunities that are afforded to their white counterparts due to excessive suspensions, Henrico County Public Schools continues to be ineffective at addressing the “racial profiling” that is an imbedded culture within its schools and among its administrators.  Based on the district’s own most recent data, they continue to suspend African-American students at a rate that is as much as four times that of white students at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.  Despite this clear crisis in the county, there is very little sense of urgency or effective common sense interventions that are being implemented by the district, even after being confronted about the crisis by parents, students, advocates, civil rights organizations, and The Virginia Department of Education.
As a veteran educational advocate that has fought for hundreds of families, a majority of whom are victims of “povertenza,” the state of not having enough and not knowing how to obtain it,” I cannot help but wonder how this judge, and we as a society, can justify such a sentencing based on “affluenza,” yet, at the drop of a dime, send millions of African-American and Hispanic youth through the School-To-Prison Pipeline, knowing that “povertenza” is one of the main factors that result in criminal actions.
I also cannot help but to wonder how many others have appeared before Judge Boyd, and many other judges like her, that are brown and black hues and poor; whose parents were abusive and negligent, who are the fall out of a divorce, whose families are dysfunctional beyond repair, who have been homeless and hopeless, who have starved and struggled, who have been suspended and been made to feel substandard, who have been denied health care, educational opportunities, and every other benefit that Ethan Couch had handed to him on a silver platter; yet the struggle and reality of these youth does not allow any place for compassion, hope, or even an opportunity for ten years of treatment in order to get back on track.
In all fairness, none of us should be surprised by the sentencing of Ethan Couch based on the “affluenza” defense.   Unfair and inequitable criminal sentencing has always been based on race and socio-economic grounds in our society.  As we all are aware, there are black, brown, and poor youth serving years in juvenile as well as adult facilities for crimes much less atrocious than Ethan’s.   It should also not be a surprise in our society when thousands of appeals are filed in the Lone Star State and throughout the nation; demanding re-trials and sentencing reviews based on the impact of “povertenza” on our youth as a motivating factor that absolves them of any and all accountability for their actions.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”
Edmund Burke

Education News
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1 Comment

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    Rebecca Smith

    We can only hope that this blatant miscarriage of “justice” serves to bring the facts of injustice in our juvenile and adult court systems to light, in a big way.

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